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updated: 12/12/2012 10:35 PM

South Florida grapples with a slithery problem

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I suspect some of you may head to south Florida to escape the normally bone-chilling temperatures and thigh-high snow in the area.

Well, that's how it used to be here when the winter months pounded us with white stuff and ice.

Our faces and hands were dry and chapped, and our vehicles had to endure road salt, accidents and slow going.

South Florida was a marvelous place to enjoy the winter season.

If you had the stamina to wait in long lines for a restaurant's early-bird special dinner, you had it made.

Of course if the temperature down there dropped to a "freezing" 70 degrees, the heavy coats and sweaters came out of storage and were draped around the backs and shoulders of the leisure-suit crowd.

But times have changed.

It used to be a common sight to see parrots, parakeets and other exotic birds whiling away the days perched on telephone and power lines. These were pets no longer wanted by people living in the endless lines of condos and apartment buildings.

Trade Winds Park, a beautiful piece of Broward Country greenery, has one of the largest populations of wild, exotic birds in Florida, all because the bird's owners opened a window and let the birds fly away.

The most recent dilemma is about snakes. Not just your common variety garden snake but rather a couple of different species of python.

These critters have slithered their way in and out of hiding places in Florida's south Everglades.

How do you think the snakes got to their new aquatic homes? They obviously didn't swim all the way from Central and South America, or Africa.

From what I am told, a few jerky south Florida residents apparently felt the Everglades were a perfectly good dumping ground for live Burmese pythons.

I have fished south Florida's lakes, rivers and canals for more than 50 years, catching largemouth bass, snook, Oscars, baby tarpon, garfish, carp and a couple of cichlids tossed in for good measure.

My heaviest bass went better than 10 pounds, and in order for me to bring it on shore I had to maneuver it around an alligator and water moccasin snake, just so I could weigh it and then release it. That took place in Boca Raton about 15 years ago.

I have a friend living in Boca who reported to me that he spotted two huge pythons swimming in a canal near his home. Each of the snakes had small deer in their mouths.

It's a sad fact the Burmese python rules the roost in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

It disturbs me that inconsiderate people let their pets go without thinking about the negative ramifications.

But I guess that can be typical of society. We see similar behavior here when a dog or a cat owner just opens the door and kicks the animals to the street.

I had seen three of these monster snakes while bass fishing in the Saw Grass Recreational Park west of Ft. Lauderdale.

In other outings, my friend Roger and I had a 15-foot alligator bump our tiny fishing boat. But this time when I saw the pythons, I knew south Florida was in trouble. These snakes are over-running swampy waterways like the Everglades.

So now state wildlife officials there are offering a bounty ($1,000) to anyone presenting the longest snake, as well $1,500 to anyone catching the most snakes.

The bounty hunting takes place next month in the state's four wildlife areas.

Burmese pythons are considered invasive animals. Their mere existence has presented a negative impact on native Everglades animals such as deer and large water-dwelling birds -- along with dogs and cats.

The Commission stated participants in the bounty hunt must take an on-line course with some additional training at the Jan. 12 event.

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