While it may not seem for the faint of heart, Burmese pythons do not faze Ian Bartoszek.
Bartoszek is an environmental science project manager with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Burmese pythons are devastating to the Everglades but efforts to control the invasive species are growing.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has teamed up with the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida to expand its program targeting invasive pythons. The goal is to implant radio transmitters onto male “scout snakes” which can then lead biologists to reproductively active female pythons, which can then be euthanized.
The project has seen some success. Over the course of two breeding seasons, three biologists have removed nearly 200 adult pythons, including female pythons, carrying more than 4,000 developing eggs.
“In all due honesty, I’m more afraid of driving through town during season when all the tourists are in town,” Bartoszek said.
He doesn’t want people in Southwest Florida to fear them either.
“They really don’t want anything to do with us,” Bartoszek said. “They’re very interested in our native wildlife.”
That’s where the problems begin.
“What do you think those animals have been eating out there? They’ve been growing extra-large on our native wildlife, deer, alligator, all meso-mammals down below,” Bartoszek said. “For the past eight years, we’ve been radio-tracking adult pythons and following them around in remote portions of Collier County.”
With the partnership, the Conservancy has expanded its reach by 40 square miles into the Picayune Strand State Forest and added 10 new scout snakes.
But even with the tech and manpower, the feat is easier said than done.
“I like to say we’re looking for the haystacks out there, these breeding areas, and then our scout snakes help us find the needles in the haystack,” Bartoszek said.