(NewsNation) — How do you hunt Florida’s apex, yet invasive, predator the Burmese Python? In “nose to the grindstone” fashion, of course.
That is how one of Florida’s top python hunters, Dusty “The Wild Man” Crumb, says he goes about hunting, and ultimately removing the gargantuan pythons from Florida’s ecosystem.
“What I know is we’re boots on the ground and we’re taking snakes out of the ecosystem,” Crumb said Thursday. “Every snake we remove helps to save our native wildlife.”
Python populations have grown out of control in Florida, but it is difficult to speculate how many there actually are in the state, as the large yet elusive reptiles are masters of camouflage and deception, Crumb said.
Burmese Pythons can grow to be over 15 feet long, Crumb’s personal capture record was nearly 17 feet long, and are known to eat fully grown deer and even alligators in the Everglades. Yet, these snakes are not native to Florida and are believed to be the reason mammal populations have fallen in the area.
That is why Crumb and others like him are contracted to hunt and kill these giants.
“They’re ambush predators; they’re going to lay and wait along the water’s edge and a bird, an alligator are unsuspecting,” Crumb said. “As the mammals are getting eliminated, yeah, they’re turning their sights to alligators.”
A fight between an alligator and a python is “the battle of the heavyweights” or a “Tyson-Holyfield” bout in nature, Crumb said.
“Sometimes the python wins, sometimes the alligator wins,” he said.
Pythons use their “bone-crushing” strength to kill their pray, which could include a human hunter if they don’t respect the python’s power in its natural habitat in the water. Luckily for Crumb, while he has been bitten, he has not had his bones crushed by one of these snakes.
“On the big snakes, if you’re in the water, you’ve got problems because you’re in their territory,” Crumb said. “You get one of these big snakes wrapped around your neck, they could drown you.”
Crumb said he utilizes every piece of the killed pythons, using their scales to create everything from wallets to boots.
“By creating a market for the python leathers, that’s a tool to help eliminate them,” Crumb said. “And also, when somebody pulls one of these wallets out of their pocket in Minnesota, they can tell the story of the Everglades. So, it’s kind of a way to help spread our message.”