Florida considers putting python on the menu as constrictors pose threat to native wildlife
Alien Burmese Python caught in Big Cypress, Florida - Florida Commission on Fish and Wildlife Conservation / Florida Commission on Fish and Wildlife Conservation
People in Florida may have an unusual delicacy to try pending a state verification that it is safe for consumption, CNN reported on Sunday: Burmese Pythons.
Burmese pythons are an invasive species found in the Florida Everglades. They were first spotted in the wild in the 1980s when it is believed that a pet owner released one.
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Since then, the massive constrictors have established themselves at the top of the local food chain, decimating the population of rabbits, raccoons, possums, and other small mammals.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is now working with the Florida Department of Health to determine if the python population contains safe mercury levels.
If the levels are safe for consumption, the FWC hopes the snakes will become a part of the local diet and aid population control efforts.
"It's early in the process for the mercury study. We are currently in the tissue collection phase of the project, and Covid has shifted our timeline a bit," Wildlife Commission spokeswoman Susan Neel told CNN. "It is planned that most of these samples will come from pythons caught by our contractor program."
The FWC is already encouraging residents to remove and humanly kill any pythons they encounter through the python elimination program. People are also asked to report sightings to authorities.
An FWC officer holds a captured Burmese python - Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr / Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr
This contractor program is also run by the South Florida Water Management District, which is helping fund the mercury study. As part of this program, which began in March 2017, over 6,000 pythons were removed from the ecosystem.
The purpose of this latest study is to "provide usage guidelines for Burmese pythons in South Florida in order to better educate the public," said Ms. Neel.
However, Mike Kirkland, the manager of the python elimination program, told CNN that he does not expect pythons to be safe to consume because apex predators, which are at the top of the food chain, often contain unsafe levels of mercury.
"Mercury builds up in the environment and there is high mercury at the top of the food chain where pythons have unfortunately positioned themselves," he said.
“We believe the results will deter the public from consuming pythons, but if we can determine that they are safe to eat, it would be very helpful in controlling their population,” he added.
Python meat is considered a delicacy. The Telegraph found numerous online outlets where it is for sale. American Burmese python meat was $ 80 for a pound (0.5 kg). It is often consumed in jerky and sausage form.
In 2017, Gordon Ramsay and his son killed and consumed a Burmese python in Florida as part of his competitive television show The F Word starring Gordon Ramsay.
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