I am a Professional Python Hunter and I am contracted by the South Florida Water Management District to capture and euthanize the invasive Burmese Pythons that are now the apex predators in South Florida and decimating the mammal and bird populations.
There are only 100 contracted python hunters in the world, and 15 of us are women. I go out into the swamp, mostly at night, and capture these pythons (that can grow up to 20 feet long) by hand. Why do I do this? The short answer is that I have always had an obsessive fascination with snakes. Because I’m not afraid of pythons and I have years of experience with many species of snakes and reptiles, I figured that this was a great opportunity to use my passion to actually make a difference in the world.
It is definitely a double edge sword. I love these spectacular creatures and I hate that we have to euthanize them, but there is no other way. Read about the Invasive Python problem here. I have made it my mission to figure out how to use as much of the python as possible so they don’t go to waste. As a deer hunter from the north, I always hunted for food. The thought of just killing an animal and not using it goes against my core values. Python meat is not legal to sell for food and the meat is very chewy, so I don’t eat them, but I use their skin to make beautiful products. If they can’t be a part of our natural world, at least their legacy can live on and continue to bring beauty to the world.
I have caught over 300 pythons, won 2nd place in the python bowl, and have been featured on the news, podcasts, magazine articles, and documentaries. The biggest python I caught was 17'3, 110 pounds, and I caught her by myself! I donate python hunts in auctions to raise money for quite a few charities, and to date have raised $285,400. I figured out how to skin and tan the pythons...a compilation of comedic trial and error that could be a hysterical mini-series. I have my own product line of leather products, and I make the ONLY Apple watch bands in the WORLD that are made of Florida python skin. I have to say, I feel pretty good about how far I have come in a relatively short amount of time. There is much more to do though, and this is only the beginning!
How I Became A Python Hunter
In 2019, I was a real estate broker with a very successful business that I had built over 13 years. When I learned that there was a python problem in Florida, I had to check it out because I have always had an obsessive passion for snakes and reptiles. I scheduled a 3 week Florida vacation with my boyfriend, Dave, to see what it was all about. I connected with a professional python hunter, Donna Kalil, and she took us on a hunt. We caught a beautiful 9-foot python. It was absolutely the best day ever! I was totally hooked. We went back to Indiana (it was -30 with the wind chill) and I told Dave that I had to move to Florida to figure out how to become a python hunter. He said he knew before I did that we would be moving, but he had a business to run in Indiana and he would be down as soon as he could. Because I have so much experience and knowledge of pythons and herpetology in general, I thought that my crazy passion could finally be more than just a hobby. I could use it to help protect and preserve the Florida Everglades. Less than two months after we came back from that vacation, I moved to Miami by myself. I had no job, no idea about how to be hired or if they were hiring, (the government was on a freeze so no one was working), and I knew no one. I rented a room from some guy online and I had to share a bathroom with his dad. Yeah. On paper it’s ridiculous. In my heart, I somehow knew it was what I needed to do. I was more sure of that than anything in my life. It was the best decision I have ever made and I am so grateful every day that I trusted my intuition and took that crazy leap.
One thing people ALWAYS ask me is, 'Why Snakes'? And I have to say...I have no idea. It’s this crazy fascination that I have had ever since my dad took me to a creek when I was little. He taught me how to catch fish, frogs, crawdads, and snakes. My fascination with snakes started then and it's been my passion ever since. It’s almost like the musician who can naturally hear and play notes, or an interior decorator who can easily put together a room, it’s just how I was born. Sometimes I wonder why it couldn’t have been kittens or puppies or something a little more normal, but it’s snakes!
Snakes have always been a part of my world. I was a volunteer at the Toledo Zoo in college, a breeder, an educator, an exotic pet store manager, and an exotic vet tech and I have traveled to many places to find, observe and enjoy them. Becoming a python hunter just seemed like a logical next step.
My 17 Foot Python
I caught this giant girl by myself on a hot summer night. She was 17'3, weighed 110 pounds, and measured 24 inches around her belly. Even though she was huge, she wasn't a record, but she is my personal best so far! The record for the longest Burmese Python caught in Florida is 18'9.