Although you cannot legally hunt the burgeoning mass of Burmese pythons that are slithering around the Florida Everglades, a handful of “hunters,” aka U.S. veterans, are allowed to capture the reptiles. These men belong to an organization called “Swamp Apes.”
Tom Rahill, one of 30 authorized agents with permission to capture the snakes in this national park, trains returning veterans how to scour the Everglades and clear trails. Founded in April 2009, the organization even provides a “zoom chair” for disabled vets to use while on the trails. Rahill believes that we cannot expect the public to fund national parks if they cannot access them. Therefore, he continues his quest to clear trails and capture pythons.
A YouTube documentary, titled The Python Invasion Project, highlights the work of the authorized agents and gives an idea of what happens on a python hunt. According to a Miami Herald report, the agents turn over all snakes to the authorities. In one of the episodes, Rahill said the primary objective of the program is to have a safe time while python hunting. "I thought this would be perfect for returning veterans; to go from that battle-ready, hyper-vigilent hallmark of PTSD to a repurposed activity that is very intense," explaind Rahill.
Many Floridians wonder if having only 30 “authorized agents” along with the Swamp Apes to capture pythons in the park is enough. Florida Rep. Frank Artiles believes the park should allow hunting. In the aforementioned Miami Herald article, he said, “Right now, [Everglades National Park] is a habitat of protectionism for invasive species.”
Meanwhile, the park’s former superintendent, Dan Kimball, said that although the park would like to expand the authorized agent program, it has funding limitations.
Last time I looked, hunters paid for permits. Seems like that might be the answer to this problem.
Brian Lovett, Realtree's news blogger, has been an outdoors reporter, writer, magazine editor and book author for 27 years. Spring turkey hunting and autumn waterfowling take up most of his outside time, but he also enjoys fishing, deer hunting and upland-bird hunting. Lovett lives in Oshkosh, Wis., with his wife, Jenny, and their retriever.