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Python Hunters

July 16th, 2009 by flanews

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hand picking specialists to catch Burmese pythons found on state land south of Okeechobee. The python problem became political July 1st, after a pet snake killed a toddler in Sumter County. As Whitney Ray tells us, Governor Charlie Crist has ordered Burmese pythons found in the wild to be killed, but pet pythons are safe for now.

Snake specialists will begin combing state land Friday morning; their mission: find and destroy all Burmese pythons. The snake population soared after Hurricane Andrew ripped through South Florida in 1992, allowing many pet pythons to escape their cages.

The problem is they are not native to Florida and they do not have a nature predator here, said Pat Behnke, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has formed a 10 member python posse to pulverize the predators.

Our experts here at the FWC are aware of their skills and their handling and they are very professional so we know there is no safety risk with them, said Behnke.

Even though the state is killing Burmese pythons, theres a catch 22. In Florida its still legal to own one as a pet.

Carol Hoover sells turtles, tarantulas, and some snakes at her pet store. She stopped selling Burmese pythons because of careless owners.

Most of them were college students and when they moved in four years they did not expect to take them with them, said Carol Hoover, the owner of Carols Critters.

Theres now a 100 dollar annual licensing fee to own a Burmese python in Florida and new cage requirements are also in place, but a complete ban could be on the horizon. The Humane Society of the United States is condemning the python hunt. The group says efforts should focus on banning the import and sale of Burmese pythons.

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