Florida launches python hunt after toddler's death

Mass hiss trail

A small band of newly licensed trappers hit the trail this week of pythons living in the swampy wetlands of southern Florida. Experts believe that as many as 1,00,000 of the reptiles are loose in the region, in an unfortunate outcome of a fad for keeping exotic pets.

Earlier this month, a two-year-old girl, Shaiunna Hare, was strangled to death in her bedroom near Orlando by a python belonging to her mother’s boyfriend. The snake had escaped its glass cage during the night and wrapped itself around the child’s crib.

The tragedy galvanised Florida’s politicians into action over mounting alarm about the danger posed by pythons, which grow as long as 8 metres, weigh up to 89 kg and can eat animals as big as deer.

“It’s just a matter of time before one of these snakes gets to a visitor in the Florida Everglades,” said Bill Nelson, a Democratic senator.

Native to Africa and south-east Asia, pythons are interlopers to Florida and face no predator to keep them in check. Florida locals blame a booming wild population on irresponsible pet owners who release pythons into the wild when they become unmanageably large.
Florida’s governor Charlie Crist last week licensed an initial group of fewer than 10 python hunters to begin trapping the snakes. Pursued by a pack of photographers, the hunters snared a 3-metre long python during their first foray on Friday.

“Pythons don’t make a lot of noise, when they’re agitated, they may hiss,” said Shawn Heflick, a licensed hunter.

The Guardian

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