Spring time in South Florida be wary of the snakes

South Florida Times - - HEALTH/CARIBBEAN - By

K. BAR­RETT BILALI

Spe­cial to South Florida Times

Fe­bru­ary may be Black His­tory Month and March is cel­e­brated as Women’s his­tory month. But in south­ern Florida, April should be of­fi­cially called “Snake Aware­ness Month.”

It is in April when the af­ter­noons be­come hot­ter and snakes are on the prowl for food, sun­bathing and breed­ing. Not nec­es­sar­ily in that or­der.

Rep­tile ex­pert Mark McCarthy says mak­ing a Snake Aware­ness Month would be a good idea.

“As soon as it starts warm­ing up, the tem­per­a­ture starts get­ting warm dur­ing the day, that’s mak­ing the cold-blooded an­i­mals move more so, said Mark McCarthy in a newsclip on WPTV. “Dur­ing the cold spells they’re not mov­ing so much,” said McCarthy owns McCarthy Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary which is a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion in West Palm Beach.

South Florida has a good share of both ven­omous and non-ven­omous snakes. McCarthy has been han­dling ven­omous snakes ev­ery day since 1972. Main­tain­ing such snakes re­quires a spe­cial per­mit from the State of Florida.

“One needs 1000 hours of work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, cage re­quire­ments and a se­cure build­ing and a $10,000 bond,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy’s boasts that his wildlife sanc­tu­ary is se­cured with in­fected foam in­su­la­tion to guar­an­tee that snakes do not slither out into the wild.

“I have never had any of the snakes es­cape. But you have to be aware be­cause snakes can get through the small­est holes,” said McCarthy.

Work­ing with ven­omous snakes does have its oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ards. McCarthy has been bit­ten four times dur­ing his long ca­reer. He had to be hos­pi­tal­ized three times.

In the lat­est in­ci­dent McCarthy got to the hos­pi­tal fif­teen min­utes af­ter the bite and his throat was so con­stricted they had to put in a trach so he could breathe.

“The last time was the worse. It was a six-foot Eastern di­a­mond­back.” said McCarthy. “I was in a coma for three days and in the ICU for 13 days.”

Still he says he is lucky to be alive and still able to han­dle snakes de­spite numb­ness in the hand where the bit oc­curred.

Own­ers of some non-ven­omous snakes also need a per­mit to keep a snake as a pet.

Ernesto Depeyster, who dis­plays his snakes to South Beach tourists and res­i­dents to pet or take pic­tures, learned this the hard way.

Depeyster, 37, was is­sued a ci­ta­tion last month for “vi­o­lat­ing Florida ad­min­is­tra­tive codes per­tain­ing to wildlife as a per­sonal pet” and “cap­tur­ing, keep­ing, pos­sess­ing, trans­port­ing, or ex­hibit­ing a rep­tile of con­cern with­out a per­mit.” Both charges are a mis­de­meanor.

The Mi­ami Beach res­i­dent was found with two snakes: an Al­bino Boa and an al­bino Burmese python. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion (FWC) con­fis­cated his Burmese Python.

Depeyster said he ac­quired the snake from an 11-year-old who had a li­cense. How­ever, such a li­cense can­not be is­sued to a mi­nor, said FWC of­fi­cials.

The risk of han­dling ven­omous snakes is quite clear, but the FWC see Burmese pythons equally dan­ger­ous be­cause of their in­va­sive na­ture.

Burmese pythons, which Depeyster at a photo shoot with Al­bino Burmese python mea­sur­ing 9 to10 feet long which was con­fis­cated by Florida wildlife of­fi­cials. orig­i­nate in south­east Asia, pythons in the wild is a reare one of the largest sult of in­ad­ver­tent and in­species on earth grow­ing ten­tional re­leases by pet up to 18 feet long and own­ers. weigh over 200 pounds. “The FWC pro­motes re­State of­fi­cials have long spon­si­ble own­er­ship of been con­cerned about the cap­tive wildlife,” wrote pro­lif­er­a­tion of these large Klep­per in an email. “It is ser­pents in the Ever­glades. the goal of the FWC to deThey are not ven­omous but velop the best reg­u­la­tions they are con­stric­tors who pos­si­ble that pro­vide for kill by squeez­ing, suf­fo­cat­pub­lic safety, an­i­mal wel­ing and then swal­low­ing fare, and the le­git­i­mate use their prey whole. of wildlife for ed­u­ca­tional,

FWC spokesman Robert ex­hi­bi­tion, or per­sonal purKlep­per said the in­creas­ing poses.” num­ber of Burmese The Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion has a pro­gram in which it pays con­trac­tors to re­move wild pythons. A fully-li­censed con­trac­tor earns an hourly rate for con­duct­ing sur­veys and an ad­di­tional $50 for each python killed or cap­tured. Adding $25 for each ad­di­tional foot of snake pro­vides a pay­ment of $150 for an eight-foot snake. Re­mov­ing a nest of pythons earns a pay­ment of $200 once ver­i­fied in the field by FWC war­dens.

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