Michael Kordsmeier cares deeply about the Everglades and has seen firsthand how snakes have decimated the region.
Kordsmeier, an Aiken resident who lives in Cedar Creek, has been a python hunter in the Everglades for eight years and recently competed in the Florida Python Challenge 2021, which is a 10-day competition where participants try to remove as many pythons. as possible. possible of the region, which includes approximately 7,800 square miles.
Kordsmeier spent his professional life in nuclear medicine for 47 years before volunteering in the Everglades.
The hunt began at 8 a.m. on July 9 and ended at 5 p.m. on July 18. Hunters can spend 10 to 24 hours on a single hunt, Kordsmeier said.
When tracking the pythons, Kordsmeier said they leave a unique scent trail, which hunters can track.
“They’re also hiding in turtle and snake burrows,” Kordsmeier said. “We check them all.”
This hunt was the first to take place during the summer months, and Kordsmeier was forced to return home a few days earlier due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. He said he was not able to use the same techniques he used on winter hunts and failed to capture it. However, the trip was still worth it, he said.
“I wanted to at least raise awareness of the serious nature (of) having these snakes in the Everglades,” Kordsmeier said. “Snakes wiped out 98% of the native species that made up the Everglades ecosystem. As long as these animals live in the Everglades, the destruction will not stop.”
These hunts are not “a bunch of rednecks running around and trying to kill as many snakes” as they can, Kordsmeier stressed, before saying he hates euthanizing these animals.
“But that’s where the benefits versus the risk of health care discipline come in,” he said. “Snakes kill anything they come in contact with. If snakes could live in the Everglades environment without destroying native species, that would be a different story.”
Kordsmeier hunts with a group known as the Swamp Apes, which he says was created by Tom Rahill who began taking veterans with him on the hunt to “help them break their anxieties, their paranoia and give them a certain self-esteem through that “.
In the 2020 Python Challenge, the Swamp Apes won in two categories: the longest snake, which measured 12 feet, 7 inches long, and the heaviest snake, which weighed 62 pounds. The team received a prize of $ 2,000 for each category, and the combined $ 4,000 went to the Swamp Apes account to provide more equipment and supplies to include more veterans in the hunts.
“I love this job, and I do it on purpose knowing that this may be the Everglades’ last chance to remain the Amazon of the United States.”