Python Elimination Program
The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board is taking aggressive action to protect the Everglades and eliminate invasive pythons from its public lands.
The Governing Board has renewed the Python Elimination Program after the pilot phase eliminated 158 pythons in a little over two months. The monetary compensation program incentivizes a limited number of public-spirited individuals to kill these destructive snakes, which have become an apex predator in the Everglades. The next phase of the program also expands access to participants to include SFWMD lands in Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties.
- News Release: SFWMD Python Elimination Program Grows Bigger And More Aggressive With Broward and Collier Counties Expansion – June 16, 2017
- Presentation to SFWMD Governing Board: Python Pilot Program Updates – June 8, 2017 [PDF]
- Photo Gallery: Python Elimination Program
- Video: Presentation to SFWMD Governing Board – March 9, 2017
- Presentation to SFWMD Governing Board: Python Pilot Program – March 9, 2017 [PDF]
- News Release: SFWMD Governing Board Takes Action to Protect the Everglades – March 9, 2017
Results of the pilot phase of the Python Elimination Program included:
- Program timeframe: March 25 - June 1, 2017
- Total pythons: 158
- Total length: 1,369 feet
- Total weight: 3,725.2 pounds
- Total hours: 3,003
- Total program cost: $49,504
- Hourly pay: $24,054
- Cash payment: $25,450
- Remaining budget balance: $125,496
The two charts below track the ongoing progress of program participants. The charts are updated as participants turn in pythons to SFWMD staff for measurement.
Meet the Participants
Out of 1,000 applications, the District has selected 25 participants to work with land managers to implement the program. Meet some of the hunters:
Each participant was provided with procedural instruction and field identification guides. Access has been given to SFWMD lands infested with pythons in Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties. Participants will be paid:
- A minimum wage hourly rate up to 8 hours daily. Time spent searching for pythons on SFWMD lands must be verified by a GPS tracking app installed on each participant's iOS or Android mobile device.
- An additional on-the-spot payment of $50 for each python measuring up to 4 feet plus an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet. In the example below, an 8-foot python would pay out $150.
- An additional $200 for each eliminated python found guarding "nests" with eggs.
To be eligible, participants must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Possess a valid driver's license
- Possess a valid email address
- Have access to an iOS or Android mobile device that allows for download and utilization of the required GPS tracking app
- Consent to be tracked using the GPS tracking app
- Have not been convicted of a felony or wildlife-related offense within the last five years
- Consent to submit to a criminal background check
Frequently Asked Questions
Twenty-five (25) individuals will be selected to participate.
The pilot phase of the project lasted two (2) months, from March 25, 2017, to June 1, 2017. The second phase starts June 17, 2017, and will continue through the end of the budget year on Sept. 30, 2017, or until the remaining money budgeted for the program has been expended.
Participants will have independent access to designated SFWMD properties over the greater portion of Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties.
Participants will receive $8.10 per hour for up to eight (8) hours each day while actively searching for pythons on SFWMD lands. For all eliminated pythons, the District will make an additional payment per python – $50.00 for pythons measuring up to four (4) feet, and an extra $25.00 for every foot measured above four (4) feet. Total compensation is not to exceed $6,000.00. See example below:
No. Participants are required to kill pythons in the field.
Yes. Firearm use must be consistent with the terms of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) permit issued to SFWMD, as well as local, state and federal regulations.
Participants will be required to download and utilize free cloud-based time and GPS tracking software on their GPS-enabled mobile device while conducting surveys. This will be the method used to verify participant's time and location while engaging in program activities on SFWMD lands.
No. Registered participants will not need a permit from the FWC.
Yes. Participants may bring up to three (3) unpaid assistants with them while engaging in program activities. Each assistant must register with the SFWMD Project Manager before being allowed to accompany participants onto SFWMD lands.
The non-native Burmese python was likely introduced to Florida's Everglades by accidental or intentional releases by pet owners. Once sought-after commodities, pythons have been sold by breeders as pets or showpieces to exotic animal collectors. Since making their way into the bountiful grounds of the Everglades, these giant constrictors have thrived, assuming a top position on the food web.
While researchers have been hard pressed to provide specific population numbers in the Everglades, a rapid number of increased sightings from 2005 to 2010 is concerning. The species was once relegated to only Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade County, but recent tracking shows pythons are moving westward into locations such as Big Cypress National Preserve and northward into Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Burmese pythons possess an insatiable appetite. They can not only kill Florida native prey species and pose a threat to humans, but also rob panthers, birds of prey, alligators and bobcats of a primary food source.
A University of Florida study published in 2015 researched invasive pythons' impact on indigenous food sources. Researchers released 95 adult marsh rabbits in areas of the Everglades known to harbor pythons. Within 11 months of the release, the study showed that pythons accounted for 77 percent of rabbit deaths, reducing prey for native predators.