U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney takes on pythons in Collier County

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OCHOPEE, Fla.  U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney joined python hunters early Friday morning in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

The Republican took part in the South Florida Water Management District’s python elimination program to raise awareness about the threats the Burmese python poses to the ecosystem.

“An average snake in a five-year period can eat over 160 animals. They’re depleting a lot of our native species,” Rooney said. “It disrupts the food chain. You’ve got these pythons taking out our rodents all the way up to panthers.”

Python hunters working with the program have eliminated more than 158 snakes since March in Miami-Dade County, stretching a combine total of approximately 1,368 feet in length, the district said.

A total of 186 of the massive snakes have been reported in Collier County since 2008, according to the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.

But the pythons don’t really pose a threat to humans, according to snake hunter Scott Depue, of North Carolina.

“Just based on their stomach contents, they’re eating everything from songbirds to alligators,” Depue said. “They’re not a threat to people.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Carli Segelson issued a statement Friday addressing the variety of ways and locations where people can remove pythons:

“Pythons can be humanely euthanized on private lands at any time with landowner permission – no permit required- and the FWC encourages people to remove pythons from private lands whenever possible. Pythons may also be taken at any time throughout the year from 22 Wildlife Management Areas, Public Small Game Hunting Areas and Wildlife and Environmental Areas where pythons are known to exist.

There is no bag limit and pythons may be taken by any means other than traps or firearms (unless provided for by specific area regulations)”

For more information about removing pythons in Florida, visit the FWC’s website. 

“Who knows how many thousands there still may be out there. That’s a lot of animals we’re going to lose if we don’t get rid of them,” Rooney said.

You can ask Rooney questions by searching #thehunt on Twitter.

Rooney answered questions from WINK News reporter Channing Frampton before the hunt:

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