The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral

Biologist & Python Hunter Joe Wasilewski Survived Venemous Snake Bites and Killer Constrictors

March 24, 2022 Oscar Corral Season 1 Episode 1
Biologist & Python Hunter Joe Wasilewski Survived Venemous Snake Bites and Killer Constrictors
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
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The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
Biologist & Python Hunter Joe Wasilewski Survived Venemous Snake Bites and Killer Constrictors
Mar 24, 2022 Season 1 Episode 1
Oscar Corral

Joe Wasilewski started his "herping" when he was a young soldier guarding a secret military base in the everglades. After that he worked at the Miami Serpentarium with owner Bill Haast, who injected himself with cobra venom regularly to build up immunity to snake bites. Today, he is an internationally renowned invasive species expert and master python hunter.  He talks about surviving venemous snake bites, his glory days of herping and the changes he has documented in the everglades ecosystem after pythons invaded.

Show Notes Transcript

Joe Wasilewski started his "herping" when he was a young soldier guarding a secret military base in the everglades. After that he worked at the Miami Serpentarium with owner Bill Haast, who injected himself with cobra venom regularly to build up immunity to snake bites. Today, he is an internationally renowned invasive species expert and master python hunter.  He talks about surviving venemous snake bites, his glory days of herping and the changes he has documented in the everglades ecosystem after pythons invaded.

00:00:02:13 - 00:00:16:23
Unknown
Welcome to the nature of Florida, the Sunshine State's only podcast dedicated to its wild and natural places and the fight to preserve them. I'm your host, Oscar Corral, a two time Emmy Award winning filmmaker and journalist. I've dedicated much of my career to making films about environmental issues.

00:00:16:24 - 00:00:31:14
Unknown
Tune in each week to hear from a broad range of voices from scientists to surfers, activists to mermaids who are working on the front lines to save what's left of Florida's natural beauty and its wildlife. All right, Joe, nice to see you again.

00:00:31:23 - 00:00:41:23
Unknown
And welcome to the Nature of Florida podcast. It's great to have you here. Thank you. It's great to be here. And I think for the sake of our listeners, it's important to let people know a little bit about you.

00:00:42:07 - 00:00:56:22
Unknown
Okay. So Joe Wasilewski is a wildlife expert and biologist who focuses on invasive species. Upon landing in the U.S. Army in 1973, he trained as a military policeman, working with Sentry Dogs at a Nike Hercules missile base in South Florida, actually in the Everglades.

00:00:57:19 - 00:01:10:19
Unknown
While in the Army, he was employed at the Miami Surf and Tourism Industry, and he began a long career of hands on work with reptiles. He's still a very well known herpetologist and hunts reptiles and and pythons in the Everglades.

00:01:11:11 - 00:01:24:19
Unknown
You know, in his spare time, sometimes he graduated from FSU with a degree in biology. And his research, you know, has always been with animals. It's not limited to reptiles. He also covered mammals and birds such as bald eagles and Osprey.

00:01:25:14 - 00:01:41:10
Unknown
And he's been appointed to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a member of both the Crocodile Specialist Group and Iguana Specialist Group, and he's a member of the IUCN CSG, Thomas Stormer Task Force, Bahamas National Trust, as well as the Explorers Club located in New York City.

00:01:42:11 - 00:02:00:23
Unknown
He's also the president of Natural Selections of South Florida environmental consulting firm. And Joe has made so many appearances on TV shows, including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. And he regularly consults with natural history productions and with media outlets, including History Channel, Nat Geo, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel.

00:02:00:24 - 00:02:16:09
Unknown
And very fortunately and luckily for me with my my documentary, which I produced a few years ago called Exotic Invaders, which was about invasive species in the Everglades. So Joe, welcome to the Nature of Florida Podcast. Thank you, Joe.

00:02:16:09 - 00:02:35:11
Unknown
Tell me what you're doing today. I know you're a bit of a globetrotter consulting for foreign governments on invasive species and other biology issues. Tell me what you're doing these days. Well, I'm still got my hands in with the crocodiles at Turkey Point, a little bit in the cooling canals around the power plant.

00:02:35:23 - 00:02:58:13
Unknown
And as you mention them, working, catching pythons out in the Everglades. And I'm I'm also working as a consultant for another problem with green iguanas. They're becoming a problem big time. They're invading almost every Caribbean island chain except the Turks and Caicos.

00:02:58:14 - 00:03:12:11
Unknown
And I'm actively working with them to keep the green iguanas out now. So those green iguanas that are popping up all over South Florida on canal banks and and backyards are actually spreading to other parts of the Caribbean.

00:03:12:11 - 00:03:26:12
Unknown
Is that what you're saying? Not only the Caribbean, but. But they're all the way in Fiji, in the South Pacific. Oh, yeah. It's they are a big problem there. They're in Singapore. They're in Thailand. I could keep going on and on.

00:03:26:16 - 00:03:45:14
Unknown
So it's a big problem. Where are the green iguanas? Native to their native to like southern Mexico through Central and South America and in their native habitats. They're very their numbers are contained. In fact, I was just in Belize.

00:03:45:18 - 00:04:11:08
Unknown
They're protected in Belize, Costa Rica, they're protected. Some Central American countries harvest them and they farm them for food. They actually call them bamboo chicken and blue chicken. Have you ever tasted bamboo chicken? Yes and no, I that was at a party where they had a bunch of that stuff and I did it just to do it

00:04:11:08 - 00:04:29:16
Unknown
. But now I have to put a lot of hot sauce on it. Lots. Yeah. So what it tastes like? It tastes like chicken. Bamboo chicken, right? Bamboo chicken. Right. And and so when did when did it green iguanas start to become a problem in South Florida and in Florida.

00:04:31:15 - 00:04:49:12
Unknown
The first green iguanas were actually documented in the mid to late sixties, believe it or not. And they've always been here. I've heard of populations of they've been around Key Biscayne and Crandon Park for 20, 30 years that I know of.

00:04:49:22 - 00:05:12:02
Unknown
Fairchild Gardens had a lot of gardens, a lot of parks. They like open spaces, but their numbers were never really what they are now. And I'm going to have to say, in the past 5 to 10 years, the numbers have spiked tremendously, which I can.

00:05:13:05 - 00:05:30:06
Unknown
Put I don't want to say the blame, but I think this gradual warming trend we're seeing, some people call it global warming or climate change that I believe is having an effect on their numbers and causing their numbers to greatly increase.

00:05:31:09 - 00:05:43:21
Unknown
I remember a few years ago there was a really cold winter here in Miami and in South Florida, I think it was maybe 2010 or 2011. And I remember maybe even talking to you about this back when we filmed the documentary that.

00:05:44:18 - 00:06:04:10
Unknown
That that event may have triggered a selection natural selection event for these reptiles and these invasive reptiles in South Florida, because a lot of them are not equipped to handle that temperature. Do you think that maybe some of these reptiles are exploding in population because they're becoming more immune to the cold and are able to tolerate it

00:06:04:10 - 00:06:24:19
Unknown
more? What do you think's going on? They certainly can become more resistant by continual exposure to this. And it was 2010. I remember it clearly. We actually lost 150 crocodiles in Everglades National Park during that cold snap. And we actually.

00:06:25:18 - 00:06:49:12
Unknown
Had ten transmitters on pythons and ten pythons and nine of the ten perished during. So, yeah, that was. I'd have to look it up, but I think it was like five nights of temperatures hovering around 40 Fahrenheit without much sun during the day to sort of get them going again.

00:06:49:13 - 00:07:09:16
Unknown
So that was a tough time and it could happen again. And now is there a way that people can contain iguanas in south Florida? As far as I know, urban hunting is urban trapping is somewhat permitted. But hunting with, you know, bows and arrows or guns or even slingshots is well, not permitted.

00:07:09:16 - 00:07:26:07
Unknown
What do you think is going on? There's a lot of companies that are that are popping up that are pest controls, but specifically for iguanas. And a lot of them trap them, they noose them, they snare them. A lot of them are doing a great job.

00:07:27:21 - 00:07:46:02
Unknown
But I'm not very clear on on firearm laws and rules, except it doesn't look right. And most of the hunters are using these high powered pellet rifles. But if you see somebody armed with a it looks like an M-16, some of them.

00:07:46:06 - 00:08:01:24
Unknown
So there could be some fallout from shooting them, is what I'm saying. Besides, an accident can happen any time. So it's happening out there now. I've seen over the last ten years, when I first moved here, there were no peacocks in my neighborhood.

00:08:02:10 - 00:08:17:04
Unknown
And now peacocks are spreading everywhere. Can peacocks become an invasive species? Are they an invasive species? And and what can can they cause harm to like the native the native birds? Yeah. All of the above is true. Whatever you said, they are invasive.

00:08:17:05 - 00:08:34:08
Unknown
I seen them in the wild in India, which is pretty cool. I actually photographed that might allow a wild peacock because they're all over my neighborhood in the Redlands. They're yes, an invasive species. And they compete with the native birds, of course.

00:08:35:02 - 00:08:47:02
Unknown
But basically they're just loud and obnoxious. And I know people in the Gables or South Miami are complaining because if you get 30 of them on your roof at night, you're not going to get any sleep, you know?

00:08:47:02 - 00:09:03:04
Unknown
And besides, they leave their droppings all over. And that's not fun either. That's so true. The peacocks leave their droppings everywhere. It's. It's it's. I speak from experience and true. The sleepless nights are a real thing. I've tried to ignore them, and sometimes they're just so loud.

00:09:03:04 - 00:09:19:03
Unknown
It's like having a loud, I don't know, alarm outside. A loud car alarm outside your car door? Yeah, outside your window. In your bedroom. And so so but which brings me to the, you know, the whole reputation of Florida as a mecca for invasive species.

00:09:19:03 - 00:09:42:11
Unknown
It's become like this global hub for invasive species. How did that happen? A number of reasons why. One of the main reasons is while the main reason is our climate, our weather in South Florida and Miami and Fort Lauderdale and I believe Tampa are our major ports of entry for wildlife shipments.

00:09:43:02 - 00:10:00:15
Unknown
And even if you had a shop in Chicago or New York, you would want your reptiles shipped through Miami because you know of the weather and all that up there. So for many years, Miami has been the center of of importers.

00:10:00:15 - 00:10:27:04
Unknown
Bringing all this exotic wildlife in the climate is certainly that we're subtropical here, so we're unlike any other place in the U.S. And we published an article ten years ago or so where there must be a dozen or two dozen authors, where we list 56 different reptiles and amphibians that are found in Florida breeding that are not

00:10:27:04 - 00:10:47:10
Unknown
native 56. One of the things that I remember realizing after doing the documentary that you were in was that it seems almost impossible to rid South Florida of invasive species. It's not impossible, but it's highly difficult. What do you think's going to happen in the future?

00:10:47:11 - 00:11:05:24
Unknown
Do you think they're going to become part of the background and part of the native, you know, fauna here? Or do you think that they're that there there's a possibility that we can eradicate some of these? There's never been a population that that was established of invasive reptiles that has been eradicated.

00:11:06:07 - 00:11:23:00
Unknown
Not yet. Can we manage them? Yes. There's a lot of experimentation going on now. I'm sure you've heard about the dogs with the pythons. And then we're using drones to find pythons and they're using chemicals to to lure pythons in.

00:11:24:11 - 00:11:41:21
Unknown
It's such a new science. This is only when I say a new science. 20, 30 years is these problems. And and in the annals of time, that's a drop in the bucket. So we're learning. And no matter what any scientist tells you, we're still learning.

00:11:41:21 - 00:11:55:00
Unknown
And and there's a lot more we need to know. Tell me a little bit more about this, these new technologies that are being used to look for pythons in the Everglades. When I did my documentary, it was still kind of news 2015, 2014, 2015.

00:11:55:07 - 00:12:10:09
Unknown
This issue was still kind of, you know, kind of on the on the sidelines, you know. But but now it's become a big deal for for the state. They started to fund hunters, and they're, I think, taking the problem a little more seriously now.

00:12:11:10 - 00:12:28:19
Unknown
How do you use a drone to find the python or. Let's start with that. How do you use a drone to find a python that was at work? Funny you should say that, because I just now in the last two or three weeks started working with the company Arrow Drones that does security work with drones and they

00:12:28:19 - 00:12:55:09
Unknown
do like Super Bowls and big time things like that. They're hooking up with another tech company and they're developing something that's kind of like radar, but they're developing a camera that can actually test the skin. And in fact, right in front of me here, I have a shedded skin of a python and I have a frozen skin

00:12:55:09 - 00:13:10:08
Unknown
that we skinned one out. And then I'm waiting for one, a leather tanned skin, and I'm sending this to the company so they can test the camera on it to see if they can design a camera that can recognize the skin of the snake.

00:13:10:13 - 00:13:31:02
Unknown
Then then we're we're we're onto something. And I don't really believe we are. Wow. Well, one of the challenges of hunting pythons is that they're in the Everglades, which is so impenetrable. Right. Detection rates of pythons. I've been literally right next to pythons and not know what I when I had when I was radio tracking them.

00:13:31:03 - 00:13:48:03
Unknown
It's right here. But kids eventually find it. But there to detect them is very difficult. We even brought Indians and a tribe from India, snake hunters, for generations to teach us how to detect them. Why did you do that?

00:13:48:20 - 00:14:03:18
Unknown
Why? Yeah. Why did you bring in the snake in the. Are they native over there? Well, because this tribe of people call the rulers were responsible for making pythons go extinct in India, parts of India during the high trading business.

00:14:04:03 - 00:14:25:24
Unknown
And they collect snakes to this day for venom research, for to make antivenom. And all they do is catch snakes. They're a snake hunting tribe and they're taught from the age of two how to hunt pythons. So we thought, who better to bring here than somebody who's done it their whole lives, generations?

00:14:26:15 - 00:14:44:16
Unknown
How to go? Did the tribe get too distracted partying on South Beach to find snakes? But we did take it to a few stores and they did go to our betters. But no, they weren't distracted. And we had it almost every day when we were in areas that were pythons.

00:14:44:16 - 00:15:03:00
Unknown
They caught pythons that they use a very finite approach. And and they don't miss anything. They're the trackers. What did you learn from them? I learned what Shrek would be like from a python or a an alligator or a turtle, how they live different tracks.

00:15:03:00 - 00:15:19:01
Unknown
And and when we did see the track of a snake of a python or any other snake, they could tell pretty much what kind it is, what direction it's going, and what pythons. They could even determine if it was a male or female by their tracks.

00:15:19:11 - 00:15:35:21
Unknown
Because males have these. And in fact, they call the track. They call the snake tracks that are left by their feet, by the snakes feet, the train, you know, the Indians call them that, you know, so they could track them.

00:15:36:17 - 00:15:54:14
Unknown
And did you catch a lot of pythons with them? One day we got another day we got four. But the way the project was designed was to put the gorillas in areas where we don't think they were pythons to see if they could locate any.

00:15:54:14 - 00:16:06:16
Unknown
So for a month out of that project, we were in areas that were not pythons, but it was still fun because they were finding snakes. I mean, at one point he pointed down and there was a well, he didn't know it was a water moccasin.

00:16:07:14 - 00:16:22:19
Unknown
A water moccasin was here, you know, minutes ago. And lo and behold, less than two feet from that, there was the snake. So, yeah, they're they're really good at what they do. And I learned a lot. So let's go let's go back a little in time.

00:16:22:19 - 00:16:38:19
Unknown
Joe, tell me tell me about those first experiences for you in the Army. Guarding the naval, you know, the Nike missile site. And what you saw there that intrigued you? Well, I've always been intrigued with reptiles since I was a young lad in Chicago.

00:16:38:23 - 00:16:55:10
Unknown
And the bully down the block threw a snake down my shirt, and I ran home. And I might have been five years old. And I unfurled my shirt and there was a snake and that was it. I was fascinated, and I haven't stopped my fascination since.

00:16:57:05 - 00:17:19:19
Unknown
And when I was drafted into the U.S. Army, I had an opportunity to go to either Vietnam, Korea or Miami. So, you know, where where would you go? Tough choice, right? Tough choice. So I wound up in Miami and the way my schedule was, I was able to work at the Miami Surf and Tourism, which is kind

00:17:19:19 - 00:17:33:17
Unknown
of like for a snake person, like like the mecca of snakes, you know, in South Florida, that was that was the place. And Bill Haas, the owner and director, was this snake man. Now, he it was open for over 40 years.

00:17:33:17 - 00:17:48:04
Unknown
So I learned so much in my four years there. I remember going to the serpent tourism as a as a boy and watching Bill Haas and others handle these venomous reptiles and these venomous snakes. And it was so, so scary and so hypnotizing to watch them.

00:17:48:14 - 00:18:13:14
Unknown
You know, how they handled the snakes that didn't pass, used to inject themselves with venom on a daily basis to build up antibodies. Or imagine that. No, no, no. He he was a pioneer and and an adventurer, and he made a concoction I don't quote my number, but I think two or three dozen different venoms, highly diluted

00:18:14:01 - 00:18:32:22
Unknown
. And he would inject it into himself and over time he would increase the dilution, you know, or, you know, increase the percentage. And it did it did save his life because he he handled hundreds of snakes a day, seven days a week.

00:18:32:22 - 00:18:46:05
Unknown
And no matter how careful you are, mistakes are going to happen. So he wanted some kind of insurance policy and that was it. Which leads me to my next question, Joel. You have been bitten by venomous snakes in the past.

00:18:46:05 - 00:18:57:04
Unknown
In fact, I remember reading in the paper just like three or four years ago that you were bitten by believe it was a rattlesnake in your in your own collection. Tell me about the venomous snake encounters you've had, the times that you've been bitten.

00:18:58:03 - 00:19:14:03
Unknown
Well, back in my serpent interim days, I was, you know, in my twenties and pretty dumb and pretty adventurous. And I been pretty careless. And I did milk snakes for the venom. And I was bitten by rattlesnakes and cobras and cottonmouth and.

00:19:14:12 - 00:19:26:18
Unknown
And even a coral snake. My gosh. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That was. That was in the early days. So. So wait a second. How did you survive all those? Did they have anti-venom on site or something? I missed their had anti-venom.

00:19:26:19 - 00:19:42:16
Unknown
I was bitten once by a forest cobra and that one knocked me down within seconds. And he he came to the house. Mr. and Mrs. ust and I don't know if anybody remembers Dr. Ben Shepherd. He's an icon in Miami.

00:19:43:07 - 00:19:59:12
Unknown
He was an M.D. He was an attorney. Anyway, he he was my attending physician, and I felt very comfortable about that. And I was spit in the eye by a cobra. So by that time, the time the cobra knocked you out, where did it bite you?

00:20:00:13 - 00:20:17:21
Unknown
In my mind, most of the bites are in your digits, your fingers, because that's your handling. So. Wow. And so within. Within a few minutes. You. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Within minutes. And my roommate at the time drove me to the hospital, and I had called Mr. Austin.

00:20:17:21 - 00:20:33:18
Unknown
Him and Mrs. Harris were on their way. You know, they met me there, and they administered the anti-venom, and I was out the next day. Since you've been bitten several times, have you been able to detect differences in the types of venom snakes used to bite, like the way they make you feel or the way they they

00:20:33:21 - 00:20:50:20
Unknown
they weaken the prey. How did you feel? What were the difference between venomous snake bites for you? Okay. Just just to let you know, snake venom is is is nothing magical. It's a complexion of proteins and amino acids and enzymes that that break down tissue.

00:20:51:21 - 00:21:08:12
Unknown
It's just that it's so concentrated like one drop of a of a cobra venom can kill a person and compare that to a rattlesnake in Eastern Diamondback, where it's about 15 drops. But that rattlesnake can give 60 drops in a bite sometimes.

00:21:08:12 - 00:21:25:08
Unknown
So but snake bite is a whole nother issue in itself. And a third of the time, a snake bites, a venomous snake bites a person. One third of the time, no venom is injected. They don't want to waste it.

00:21:25:24 - 00:21:44:11
Unknown
It's valuable to them, but they want to warn you away. The second, third, a little bit is injected enough to cause discoloration, discomfort, maybe swelling and and to get worried. And then the final third is when they say enough is enough, and here's a full dose.

00:21:44:24 - 00:22:04:19
Unknown
And, well, here in the U.S., it's not that much of an issue. Five people and the average die from snake bite every year. More people die from bee stings or dog bites or deer collisions. But in India, the country of India, 50,000 people die.

00:22:05:11 - 00:22:24:10
Unknown
Wow. So it's a it's a it's a big danger over there. And in the continent of Africa, we we don't even know how many, but it's a lot more than 50,000. Let me just say, when I worked in the Congo, every time I was there, I would hear about someone being bitten and dying nearby, you know, so

00:22:24:17 - 00:22:39:09
Unknown
it happens a lot more than we think. And I remember reading about your your most recent bite, what I think is your most recent bite, which was that you kept in your in your facility. And it was a was it a diamondback rattlesnake?

00:22:39:16 - 00:23:01:24
Unknown
Tell me tell me about that encounter. What happened? Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. And I it even at my old age now I'm not as dumb as I was in 20, but I became complacent. And and I would say that to anybody listening to this about any job, whether you're a an electrician or a plumber or an auto mechanic

00:23:01:24 - 00:23:15:15
Unknown
, don't ever become complacent because that's when you get hurt. And that's exactly what happened. I didn't even use my tool to pick the snake up and I just picked it up and it hit me and and, you know, 48 vials of anything.

00:23:15:15 - 00:23:35:20
Unknown
And then later, here I am sitting here. Wow. What happened when my son box, you know, secured the snake for me and call 911 and I was to the hospital within minutes. And you almost died. I know you didn't, but but what was the experience like in terms of the antivenom?

00:23:36:01 - 00:23:59:22
Unknown
Did you pass out or was it very painful? Yes, I passed out right away. And and what I learned and what was happening through my life is being bitten multiple times by venomous snakes. You use the killing power you have, you have you can fight that more, but you become allergic to the venom.

00:24:00:09 - 00:24:11:21
Unknown
And I'm very sensitive. And and if I had EpiPen, I think it would have been different. But I never used an EpiPen. You know, people carry that. Are you for me? Yeah. Yeah, that's for allergies. For extreme allergies.

00:24:12:03 - 00:24:30:11
Unknown
Yes. Yeah. Allergic reactions, right? Yeah. Even even people with peanuts. So that would have helped me because I'm very I'm very sensitive to the snake venom. And and just to let you know, Mr. Haast working with venom as much as he did, he would freeze, dry it and measure it.

00:24:30:11 - 00:24:49:04
Unknown
He would sell it to universities for research. And he had to wear an oxygen mask because of the particles of the venom he couldn't ingest. Breathe them. Oh, really? He was. Yeah. Yeah. So he was allergic. And so what did getting getting bit all those times teach you about these animals?

00:24:50:10 - 00:25:09:08
Unknown
Oh, with them again, the first the first quarter of my life, it was just stupidity and carelessness. And the you know, now the recent times, it's it's complacency. So don't be stupid. Don't be complacent, and you'll be all right.

00:25:10:08 - 00:25:24:20
Unknown
See, every time I've been bitten, it was my fault. But I guess to tell people they go out in the Everglades or the mountains, you know, where copperheads live or Arizona, where rattlesnakes. Just be aware of your surroundings.

00:25:24:20 - 00:25:40:10
Unknown
Don't reach somewhere where you can't see. Don't step over a log, you know, because there might be a snake laying. There is. Use common sense and you won't get bitten. And people that handle snakes like you're going to be bitten, it's just a matter of time.

00:25:41:23 - 00:25:58:12
Unknown
It's incredible the fear that some people have of snakes. I have have friends and family who would wouldn't even watch my documentary because it had snakes in it. There's a real phobia. A phobia? What's that? Video phobia. That's the fear of snakes or video phobia, right?

00:25:58:15 - 00:26:11:00
Unknown
Interesting. Well, that's what they have. And they wouldn't even watch my documentary back to South Florida and the Everglades. So let's say you're a visitor coming from Alabama or from China or from Venezuela or, you know, you just come in to visit Miami, you go to the Everglades.

00:26:11:06 - 00:26:27:20
Unknown
What do you think is going through some of these visitors minds as they enter the Everglades with its incredible reputation for for being, you know, just a wild place? Well, you know, half of the people think they're going to be by alligators, and yet they think they're going to be eaten by pythons.

00:26:28:09 - 00:26:49:04
Unknown
But neither neither are true for visitors to the Everglades, because I'm in the Everglades a lot. And I used to do tours there a lot, and I see a lot of European visitors. Chances are you'll never see a python, and if you do, it'll probably be crossing the road or something and just stay away from it.

00:26:49:11 - 00:27:09:08
Unknown
As far as alligators and crocs there, you just stay out of the water and watch them from a distance and take a picture. And you're great. They're commonly seen seeing crocodiles in the Flamingo area. So I know everybody can see an alligator, but not everybody can see a crocodile in Florida.

00:27:09:16 - 00:27:23:16
Unknown
And that's the place where you can see them. I remember camping in Flamingo a couple of winters ago and right in the in the kayak launch area, there was a big old croc. And the people who work there were telling people, look, go see the crocodile.

00:27:23:16 - 00:27:34:13
Unknown
And it was a big fat crocodile, but it wasn't messing with any kayakers or anything. It didn't seem to be aggressive. And, you know, people were not approaching it either. But but it was it was a sight to see it.

00:27:34:17 - 00:27:50:04
Unknown
Such a large animal, they get pretty big right still there to this day. Yeah. Now, somebody just sent me a picture of them, so. And they nest right there, right at the boat across from the boat ramp. So looking toward the future, Joe, what what's happening now?

00:27:50:11 - 00:28:11:16
Unknown
You mentioned some of the technology is being used, but what do you see happening in the future with South Florida's ecosystem and invasive species? Boy, that's a that's a tough one. It has to be addressed. Right now, the Game Commission just outlawed the possession of 16 different reptiles that I don't know that much about that particular new

00:28:11:16 - 00:28:30:22
Unknown
law, but I don't know. That might be a little too late, a little too much too late, because these reptiles are already here. There's going to have to be funding to get rid of these. And and the state is being very proactive by paying these contractors to go out in the Everglades and hunt pythons.

00:28:31:13 - 00:28:48:17
Unknown
They get minimum wage and they get a fee for every snake they catch. But still, you know, the governor and the legislature is doing a good job of providing resources, and that is what's needed. How did the Python invasion start?

00:28:48:18 - 00:29:02:07
Unknown
Was it people releasing pets or was there some sort of accident in during a Hurricane Andrew? What's what's the origins of it? Nobody can tell you for sure. I can tell you my theory is you could talk to ten different.

00:29:02:13 - 00:29:18:07
Unknown
What are your theories? Oh, my theories are. Are a combination of everything. You said people because I owned a shop for a while and people would call me every day. Not every day, but a lot. I have a python I need to get rid of.

00:29:18:07 - 00:29:34:22
Unknown
See, they buy them when they're babies and they grow big fast, and in a year they could be five or six feet. So what happens? The kids get tired of taking care of them. The kids go off to college, they get a divorce.

00:29:34:22 - 00:29:47:01
Unknown
You know, they are afraid of the snake because it's getting a number of reasons they don't want it anymore. And they'll call up a pet shop. They don't want it. The zoo doesn't want it. They don't have room.

00:29:47:14 - 00:30:04:20
Unknown
So people think they're doing the animal a favor by releasing it. It's against the law here in Florida to do so. There is a number with the game commission. It's a one 800 number that you can how could I say you can turn it in without repercussion.

00:30:05:02 - 00:30:29:23
Unknown
You could surrender a snake like that instead of releasing it. But that didn't account. People releasing them didn't account for what happens. What's happening now? In August 24th, the 9292 Hurricane Andrew hit, and there were not one but two importers I heard on the road very near the Everglades National Park.

00:30:30:23 - 00:30:55:17
Unknown
They? One of them for sure had 900 baby pythons. So if you just look at the wind trajectory where the wind Andrew was going, I think it clear through the state, if I'm not mistaken, it blew these 900 pythons right in the middle of I think it's Taylor Slew and baby pythons in three years under optimal conditions

00:30:55:17 - 00:31:18:06
Unknown
are mature and they could breed. So in three years, let's say let's just suppose 200 of the 900 live 100 males and females. It's not a you know, it's not outrageous. In one in three years now you've got 100 females, 25 eggs, 2500 eggs right off the bat.

00:31:18:13 - 00:31:39:00
Unknown
So that now we're in 95 now go every year after 95, there's going to be a tremendous spike. And a mathematician can do a formula I can to suggest how many could be there under optimal conditions. What have they done to the native wildlife in the Everglades area, the mammals especially?

00:31:40:12 - 00:32:00:13
Unknown
I can't tell you. The last raccoon I seen roadkill. I'm on Tamiami Trail a lot. Krome Avenue. There used to be possums and raccoons all the time, and they're not any left to be crossed in the roads because the pythons have removed a lot of them.

00:32:01:17 - 00:32:20:19
Unknown
There is a a paper out recently, a scientific paper that suggested 90% of the mammals in certain parts of the Everglades National Park are no longer there, 90% because pythons eating them. Wow. So, yeah, there's there's there's some ramifications that are being felt.

00:32:21:10 - 00:32:35:23
Unknown
Is there hope, Joe? You know, are we are we ever going to see kind of these mammals return? Do you think there's a balance that needs to be struck? What do you think the future holds? Absolutely. I'm the eternal optimist that's going to right guy.

00:32:36:13 - 00:32:53:13
Unknown
What happens in a biological invasion? It is. The numbers are low, right? By the time we notice it, the numbers are beginning to spike. And then these numbers just grow out of proportion until the like the pythons, for instance.

00:32:54:02 - 00:33:11:24
Unknown
There's not a food like there was before. So eventually they're going to plateau. And with the pressure we're putting on them, we're going to knock them down. Let me ask you a question. Yeah? What happened to the buffalo that used to roam the plains in the 1850s?

00:33:13:06 - 00:33:27:06
Unknown
Well, weren't they hunted nearly to extinction? Bingo. What about the passenger pigeon? Went to. To extinction. But. But the passenger pigeons and the buffalos didn't live in the Everglades. Well, actually using that as an example. Right, right, right.

00:33:27:13 - 00:33:42:22
Unknown
But my point is, with 100 of these hunters out there catching. We are catching a lot of these snakes. And and every one that comes out that is captured is, number one, not going to be eating our native wildlife.

00:33:42:23 - 00:34:02:18
Unknown
Number two, not going to reproduce. So some scientists claim it's a waste of time for us to be catching these pythons, but not me. I totally agree that we can and will knock their numbers down. All right. Well, hopefully we'll see some of those you know, those mammals return.

00:34:02:18 - 00:34:15:14
Unknown
And I'd love to see possums and deer and and bobcats back out in the Everglades would be amazing. Is there a is there an animal that pythons don't eat other than maybe bears or panthers or do pythons eat everything?

00:34:16:07 - 00:34:31:11
Unknown
I would imagine they need a panther or small bear to know they're going to eat everything, including alligators. Well, but the funny thing is, we start because we we open them up and check their stomachs. We're starting to find more and more iguanas in their stomachs.

00:34:32:01 - 00:34:45:18
Unknown
So that's one way to start. Maybe we should bring some python out into the canals and neighborhoods that are overrun by iguanas and let them let them loose and see what they do. Right. Amazing. Well, Joe, this is this has been a great conversation.

00:34:46:22 - 00:35:08:22
Unknown
Before we go, any anything else you want to add about what you're doing about the invasive species issue out there? No. I just want to commend the state for being proactive about providing resources to catch the Pythons. And if we keep doing this, if we keep the agencies together, which is happening, we can win this battle or

00:35:08:22 - 00:35:19:21
Unknown
this war. So I have to feel good about it. Well, good. That's a good note of optimism to end on. Joe, thanks for being my guest. Really nice talking to you. You're welcome. Have a great day. All right.

00:35:19:21 - 00:35:32:14
Unknown
You, too. This episode of The Nature of Florida podcast was brought to you in part by the Everglades Foundation. The Fairburn Foundation. The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Explique a media. If you're enjoying this podcast, remember to subscribe on our website.

00:35:32:15 - 00:35:42:11
Unknown
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, the Bus, Broadcom. That's the nature of Florida with Oscar Corral Douglas, Broadcom. Or find us on your favorite platform and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.