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Francis Rooney to go python hunting in Big Cypress swamp

Rep. Francis Rooney is going python hunting.

The Naples Republican announced Monday he plans to take part in the South Florida Water Management District’s python elimination program on Aug. 10. The program aims to eliminate the Burmese python, an invasive species, which damages the Everglades ecosystem and its native wildlife.

“I am looking forward to hunting these devastating and invasive snakes,” said Rooney in a statement. “The python is a predator impacting the delicate balance of the ecosystem across the Everglades and the State of Florida.  Innovative ideas such as the Python Elimination Program incentivize members of the public to assist in removing this invasive species and remind us that we all have a vested interest in restoring the Everglades.”

Rooney is the latest Florida politician to head out on a python hunt. In May, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined python hunter Tom Rahill on a hunt in South Florida. The Miami-Dade Republican killed a 15-foot Burmese python with a pocket knife during his trip, posting photographs on social media.

POLITICO Florida reported at the time Lopez-Cantera grabbed the snake, and Lopez-Cantera helped pulled it out when they realized how large it was. The lieutenant governor then killed it with the knife.

The South Florida Water Management District renewed the program in June, after the pilot program eliminated 158 snakes in about two months. The district’s governing board also expanded the area where python hunters are allowed to access to include Broward and Collier counties. Previously, the hunt was only allowed in Miami-Dade County.

“Joining this hunt is a worthy challenge,” said Dan O’Keefe, the chairman of the SFWMD Governing Board in a statement. Having also experienced the program firsthand by participating in a live hunt, I cannot say enough about the tremendous work of our bounty hunters working long hours and enduring the harsh summer elements to rid the Everglades of this destructive python threat.”

Rooney is scheduled to go python hunting in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Aug. 10.

 

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