Invasive species: FWC studies whether Burmese python is safe to eat

Published: December 1, 2020 9:45 PM EST
Updated: December 2, 2020 6:17 PM EST

Chances are you haven’t had Burmese python for dinner, but would you do it to help the greater good of the state?

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is looking into alternative ways to get rid of the invasive species for good. There are some hurdles the state must jump over before this becomes a reality.

According to FWC, it needs to figure out if mercury is too high in the pythons to eat. FWC is in the tissue collection stage of the project.

We spoke to a doctor who explained toxicity of mercury to people varies, but that hasn’t stopped a python hunter from eating these reptiles.

“I’ve made pasta. I’ve made chili and stir fry, all sorts of different dishes with them,” Donna Kalil said.

Don’t forget python jerky. Kalil has caught hundreds of pythons in the Everglades, so it’s only normal for her to cook them up once in a while.

“It tastes like chicken,” Kalil said with a laugh.

While she says the white meat does have to be cooked a certain way to taste good, the question remains about whether it’s safe to eat.

“There’s a lot of things to eat out here, but you have to know they are safe,” Kalil said. “And the only way to know that is to have them tested.”

That’s why Florida Department of Health and FWC are testing the mercury levels in the Burmese python.

“You have to kind of look specifically to the areas,” NCH Dr. Ben Abo explained. “It’s not like fish.”

Abo says, as long as you don’t eat too much of it, it should be OK.

“I’m not aware of any particular concerns of it,” Abo said. “I’d be really surprised if you’re eating enough of the python to have a mercury level that’s really an issue.”

FWC says the pandemic has pushed its studies back a bit. With the Burmese python being invasive, FWC hopes this data will inform the public and maybe give people an incentive during python hunts to catch them.