On the hunt for pythons in the Everglades

Posted at 4:52 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 08:02:53-04

Predators like no other are roaming Florida's crown jewel of wildlife areas.
Python hunter Rodney Irwin, 63, knows their territory better than anyone. The fourth generation Floridian has a key for every lock in the Everglades and he's not afraid to use it.

“Nobody comes here, this is the end of the world right here, this is as far as you could go,” said Irwin.

It’s no surprise he's one of 20 working for South Florida's Water Management District hunting and killing slithering beasts which aren't supposed to be here.
“The horses are out of the barn, you’re not gonna get them back in the barn, the best you can do is try to catch as many as possible,” he said.
He'll admit they're nowhere close to doing it fast enough. So far, he's killed 13 with the largest coming in at 12 feet long. In fact, he pulled three from an area called Taylor Slough in the days before we arrived.
“Doesn't get much better than this for pythons,” he commented. 

It’s an old shut down pump house making it prime real estate.
“Here they can come out and lay in the water and just disappear,” Irwin said. 

That's the problem. Pythons are so difficult to locate and intercept. Numbers vary depending on whom you talk to but there could be over 100,000 in the Everglades. On average it takes 100 hours of searching just to find one.
“As long as they make it to the first six months, maybe a year, then they're bulletproof. They don't really have any predators out here except me,” said Irwin with confidence.
It’s a Herculean effort that includes binoculars, a 22 rifle, a good sense of traction and Rodney's new eye in the sky which has proven successful taking aim where he cannot see. “If you see a python with a drone then you can get on foot up to where the python is and that allows you to go with stealth and you're not gonna spook the python.”
Typically, they're often lying along berms or roadways regulating their body temperature.
“This is classic python hunting, it’s a very good spot we've got an open area, we've got a western and eastern facing wall.”
After six hours of searching on this warm and windy day, we couldn’t locate one but Rodney has his captures and kills already logged which keeps him coming back for more. “Wildlife got it figured out, stay where the people aren't.”
It’s a chess match that requires time and experience and with every kill, hundreds of native animals are saved by one python death. For Rodney, he is ready to defend his home and protect the native species. “This is my backyard, we've got big predators from other countries coming to my backyard killing animals I grew up with.”
Click here for a closer look at exactly what pythons are eating in the Florida Everglades.