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The predator could soon become prey if US Scientists can confirm that Burmese pythons, an extremely invasive species snake species in Florida Everglades, they are safe to eat.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is collaborating with the Florida Department of Health to investigate mercury levels in pythons to determine if they can be safely consumed. If so, snakes may soon end up on restaurant menus and dinner tables across the state.

Pythons are non-poisonous constrictors found primarily in South Florida, where they have raised a serious risk to the native fauna of the region. The snake is not native to the state and began showing up in the Everglades in the 1980s when it was likely introduced as an escaped or released pet.
Python hunters Kevin Pavlidis, left, and Ryan Ausburn hold their record 18-foot-9-inch python caught as part of the Florida Python Removal Program.
Python hunters Kevin Pavlidis, left, and Ryan Ausburn hold their record 18-foot-9-inch python caught as part of the Florida Python Removal Program. (SFWMD)
The FWC encourages residents to humanely remove and kill pythons whenever they can at any time of the year, as report any sightings to officials.

“It is early in the process for studying mercury. We are currently in the tissue collection stage of the project, and COVID has delayed our timeline a bit,” wildlife commission spokeswoman Susan Neel told CNN.

“The plan is for the majority of these samples to come from pythons captured by our contractor program.”

The contractor program, the Python Removal Program, is run by the commission and the South Florida Water Management District, which is funding the new mercury study.

So far, more than 6,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades through the program.

The goal of the study is to develop and share “Burmese python consumption advisories in South Florida to better inform the public,” Neel said, hoping Floridians will soon be able to eat pythons to help manage their populations.

Wildlife officers were called to a business in Dania Beach, Florida, on October 30 to remove a 10-foot-long Burmese python from the car's engine compartment.  The snake had slipped under the hood of a Ford Mustang.
Wildlife officers were called to a business in Dania Beach, Florida, on October 30 to remove a 10-foot-long Burmese python from the car’s engine compartment. The snake had slipped under the hood of a Ford Mustang. (Courtesy of Maor Blumenfeld)

“Mercury is a natural element in the environment and is high in the Everglades,” Mike Kirkland, manager of the Python Elimination Program, told CNN.

“Mercury bioaccumulates in the environment and you will find high levels of mercury at the top of the food chain where pythons have unfortunately positioned themselves.”

“We hope the results will discourage the public from consuming pythons, but if we can determine that they are safe to eat, it would be very helpful in controlling their population,” he said.

Nothing like a good python jerky

When pythons are safe to eat, they can actually be quite delicious, says Donna Kalil, one of the python hunters on the show.

Ms. Kalil is the first hunter in the python removal program, according to Kirkland, and has so far captured and euthanized 473 pythons. When she catches the smallest ones, about six feet long, she uses a mercury test kit she bought online to confirm that they are safe to eat.

Then turn their white meat into food.

First, use a pressure cooker so the meat is soft and tender.

Then add pasta sauce, chili, or stir fry.

He also likes to turn snakes into dried meat.

Find the hidden snake in these Australian houses and backyards

“It’s really good when cooked right,” Kalil told CNN.

“This would be a wonderful way to get more people involved to help us eliminate pythons from the environment. It would be nice if people hunted and ate them, but first we need to make sure they are safe.”

Ms. Kalil spent her childhood catching and releasing snakes for fun. Despite his love for pythons, which he calls “magnificent creatures,” he emphasizes the risk they pose to Florida’s wildlife and the severe damage they have already caused to its ecosystem.

Large pythons can even eat large prey, including humans.

“We have a serious python problem, which started when irresponsible pet owners left them in the wild and they have basically eaten all of the native mammals in Everglades National Park,” Kalil said.

“There are literally 2 to 3 percent rabbits, raccoons, and possums left, so when I see a rabbit, I’m jumping for joy now. There are just no more pythons.”


www.9news.com.au

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