TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida senator who once hunted down a 9-foot Burmese python wants the state to pay private contractors to eradicate pythons and other invasive species from the Everglades.
Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who doubles as a snake hunter on his spare time, is spearheading the effort to capture and kill pythons in the Everglades to protect the area's small native animals. He says "furry creatures" and American alligator nests are being decimated by the growing population of hungry snakes.
A 2015 University of Florida study linked the Burmese python is associated to a drop in the mammal population in the Everglades National Park. The rise in the snake population stems in part from pet owners discarding their unwanted exotic animals.
If the bill passes, the $600,000, two-year pilot program would let the state hire trained python hunters. Snake hunters would capture or kill the animals found in public lands and waters and would supply data on every capture for research purposes.
The bill would also require Florida pet dealers to tag animals identified as non-native to the state before offering them for sale.
This isn't the first time lawmakers have pushed for legislation aimed at shrinking Florida's python population. In 2009, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson proposed a federal ban on pet pythons.
On Tuesday, Artiles pushed his state measure and didn't shy away from sharing his love for snake hunting.
"I would like to invite you all to go python-hunting with me in the Everglades -- and with that I close," Artiles said.
Members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources voted to advance the bill (SB 230) towards its final stop before heading to the full senate.