MIAMI - Like most people who signed up for Florida’s official Burmese python hunt last winter, Mark Rubinstein slogged a couple times through the Everglades without ever seeing one of the elusive snakes.
Something else caught his eye, though.
In the dirt along a levee, about 10 miles deep into the wetlands, Rubinstein found a gold pendant, with sapphires forming a cross inside a circle of diamonds. One edge of the penny-sized medallion was melted and misshapen.
It may have fallen from the sky. Rubinstein was hunting near the crash sites of two airplanes that went down in the same area: Eastern Flight 401, a New York flight that crashed as it prepared to land in Miami in 1972, and ValuJet Flight 592, a 1996 flight to Atlanta that caught fire shortly after takeoff and plummeted into the remote swamps west of Miami.
Rubinstein hopes to return the jewelry to its rightful owner.
“We’ve got to get this back to the family, if we can,” he said last week.
Python hunter Mark Rubinstein hopes to return the jewelry to its rightful owner.
All 104 passengers and five crew members aboard the ValuJet flight died. The Eastern flight carried 163 passengers and 13 crew members. Seventy-seven people survived, thanks in part to a Homestead man who was catching frogs from his airboat that night. He pulled survivors onto his airboat and turned his headlamp skyward so rescue helicopters could find the crash.
Invasive pythons have been able to disappear into the Everglades for a reason. Sawgrass gets its name from its sharp edges and can grow tall enough to hide predators and any sign of civilization. The wetlands are best traversed by an airboat, and guides warn tourists that anything dropped into the murk is gone for good.
Eastern Flight 401 passenger Ron Infantino spent five hours pinned by debris in the water and sawgrass, holding onto the armrest of what had been his seat on the airplane. The crash stripped him of everything, leaving him naked except for the elastic of his socks. He screamed for his wife of 20 days, Lilly, but he never heard her voice again.
“I’ve always wondered: Could you imagine if I went back out there and found my wallet? But, no,” he said. “It took them two days to find Lilly.”
His first thought of his wife when he saw a picture of the pendant Rubinstein found, but he didn’t recognize it as a piece that belonged to her. Infantino, who is raising money to build a memorial to the people lost on his flight, praised Rubinstein for reaching out to the survivors and the victims’ families.
The state of Florida is gearing up for a massive python hunting contest in the Everglades starting on Saturday. But an animal rights group is calling for the state to ban decapitation as a method of killing the giant snakes.
Decapitation is one of three lethal methods the state has authorized in the Python Challenge. The contest, which has cash prizes, is attracting hunters from all over the U.S. to help the state fight an infestation of non-native Burmese pythons.
But Lori Kettler, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says decapitation cannot possibly be humane.
‘This is going to create a machete-wielding army of inexperienced snake hunters,” she said. “We’re quite concerned that any concern for the snakes’ pain and suffering is likely to go without notice or consequence.’
Kettler said, reptile biologists say, snakes can feel pain for up to an hour after decapitation because of their slow metabolism.
PETA has sent a letter to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but the state has not responded.
Comment: Meh, PETA can want all they want, but Florida has a serious problem with these invasive species!
A record-breaking giant Burmese python, an invasive species invading Florida, was captured in the Everglades.
The big female python weighed in at 164.5 pounds, was 17 feet and 7 inches long, about a foot wide in some places, and was cultivating 87 eggs inside her oviducts.
‘This thing is monstrous, it’s about a foot wide,’ Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko said in a statement from the University of Florida. ‘It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there’s nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble.’
Burmese pythons have been troubling Florida for years. Researchers aren’t completely sure how they got to Florida in such great numbers, but some suggest they were pets that escaped or were released into the wild by their owners. Since 1979, they’ve been growing and multiplying, eating their way through the alligators, birds, bobcats and deer that live in the National Park.
‘A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants,’ Krysko said. ‘By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species.’
There could be thousands to hundreds of thousands of these snakes out there.
‘They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior,’ Krysko said. ‘Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python. We’ve found 14 in a single day.’
Read more: businessinsider.com
Senior loyalists in the Obama administration seized a valuable election-year opportunity to talk up the president’s environmental credentials today as they announced an increase in funding to restore the Florida Everglades.
Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, was one of several top officials chosen to front a press conference in Kissimmee trumpeting a further $80m investment in a project supporting farmers and ranchers who preserve land for agriculture and wildlife.
Claiming that President Barack Obama has made the restoration of Florida’s troubled 2.4m-acre ecosystem “a national priority” with more than $1.5bn of government money since 2009, Vilsack said the project would revitalise more than 23,000 further acres of wetlands.
“Restoring these wetlands demonstrates a strong commitment to partnerships with ranchers and farmers to improve water quality and habitat protection while supporting Florida’s strong agricultural economy and ranching heritage,” he said.
“These investments are paying off, creating nearly 7,000 jobs in Florida’s economy and preserving thousands of acres of precious wetlands for future generations to enjoy.”