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Lawmakers are considering using drones in the hunt for invasive species like pythons.

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Gov. DeSantis signs bill allowing drones to target invasive wildlife species

The drones will not be permitted for law enforcement.

Gov. Ron DeSantis added another tool to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s tool-belt Monday, signing a bill that would expand use of drones by state agencies.

The bill (HB 659,) sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, would allow state agencies, such as FWC, to use the aircraft over swamps and other people-free places where invasive species like pythons and other nuisances have proved problematic.

The bill would also allow wildlife and forestry officials to use drones to track pythons, lygodium and other invasive species inhabiting Florida’s forests, wetlands, and wilderness spaces, often to the detriment of native wildlife.

Law enforcement agencies, however, cannot utilize drones under this bill.

Invasive species such as pythons have long challenged wildlife officials in the Sunshine State and the impacts of pythons is not lost on DeSantis.

In Nov. 2019, DeSantis applauded the the Python Action Team, a South Florida team of wildlife experts who specialize in nonnative constrictor management efforts.

Experts say pythons have eliminated 99% of the native Everglades mammals including rabbits, bobcats and foxes, decimating food sources for native panthers and alligators.

In Senate discussion, sponsor Ben Albritton said efforts to combat nonnative constrictors would be a big help in the field.

“I’ve been told that there is at least an emerging technology that would allow them to identify these snakes,” he said “As you know, chasing those nasty critters down in the Everglades is a difficult task.”

Those interested in the Python Action Team can apply online.

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capitol for Florida Politics. After his time with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studies Political Science & American Policy. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. You can reach Jason at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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