COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- Have you ever thought about being a python hunter? Some in Southwest Florida are considering it, so Florida Fish and Wildlife hosted a Python Patrol training course at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to give people a very hands-on learning opportunity.
The course comes after the South Florida Water Management District released applications for people to catch the invasive Burmese python.
The focus was demonstrating how to safely capture a python in the wild.
It was a first for some participants. "I was really nervous when I was thinking about doing it, and my heart was racing," said one participant.
"First of all you're always nervous when you're doing something the first time, so I think everyone's nervous trying to get a hold of them," said another participant.
These friends were getting more comfortable as the training session went on.
"I feel a little more confident now, I think."
An instructor shows the class how it's done, how once you've pinned the snake, you grab it by its neck. "I'm going to reach in, make a loop around his neck, I'm just going to hold him in a loop. I’m not pinching him at all."
Then with your other hand, bag the snake. "Fingers inside the bag, hand at the bottom of the bag...pulls right down. Put the bag over his head. Put the bag on the ground, and chase him in the bag."
Some people, like Robert Wallace, have more experience with the reptiles. So why do he capture snakes for a hobby? "Adrenaline rush…prior military, I've got to do something on Saturdays."
He's taking this class to get his license so he can legally hunt Burmese pythons in South Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District is now willing to pay 25 people to help capture the invasive species as part of their pilot python elimination program.
“If you go out to the ‘Glades you'll see some of the damage that they've done. You see torn up nests and you see that snakes have eaten everything," says Wallace.
If left unchecked, these invasive predators can kill the local wildlife on a massive scale.
Wallace says people having them as pets is part of the problem. "I think it's a mistake. It was a mistake for me to have one. I have friends that have them now and it's a mistake. They're going to get loose."
For others, the class was about learning and facing a fear. "I feel pretty good about it now that I did it and I can say that I did it."
The South Florida Water Management District says the hunters selected will have to go through many safety orientations, and no one will hunt these snakes alone.
Registration for the hunting program is now closed, due to an overwhelming response.
If hunting snakes isn't your thing, you can still help FWC by snapping a picture of a Burmese python, if you ever see one. Just send them the location where you saw it.