Last week the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission announced plans to address the Burmese Pythons and black bear populations in the state. Although bear hunting has been banned in Florida for 20 years, recent bear attacks around Ocala State Park and in the Panhandle, and interactions as far south as Broward County, have concerned wildlife managers enough to revisit a hunting plan. Although the species suffered a severe decline prior to the ban due to hunting, logging and development, populations have increased nearly six-fold since counts were established in the 1950’s.
On February 4th, the Commission will consider whether to allow limited hunting, which many believe will be highly controversial. Balancing public safety with wildlife protection is a challenge, not to mention the bureaucratic difficulty of hunting the large populations within national preserves like Big Cypress.
With regard to pythons, interactions mostly affect native species near the Everglades – in competition with Florida’s native predators and in the decline in smaller mammals of prey. The Commission has tried dogs, radio-transmitters, and professional hunters, and is now turning its attention to the general public. Python identification and catching sessions are scheduled in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to help create a “python patrol” to prevent the species from spreading.
For more information or to register for the training, go to MyFWC.com/Python and click on “Python Patrol.”