Everglades Burmese python hunter Dusty “Wildman” Crum (pictured above) and Biologist Mike Kirkland, who manages a team of 25 python hunters for the South Florida Water Management District, have been invited back to Sanibel Island to headline “Ding” Darling Day events on Sunday, October 20.
Their presentations at the national wildlife refuge this past spring attracted standing-room only crowds, and their “Ding” Darling Day talk — scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Visitor & Education Center Auditorium — should be just as fascinating.
The pair will co-present a free program about their work to save Everglades’ wildlife from total devastation at the appetite of exotic Burmese pythons.
“We used to find birds, ducks, deer, rabbits, otters, and raccoons,” said Crum, who largely hunts for snakes — while typically sporting bare feet — in the eastern Everglades. “Where I’ve been hunting, there are none of these animals left.”
Researchers believe the pythons have decimated their food supply of prey in the eastern Everglades and Miami-Dade County, says Kirkland. In response, he has expanded SFWMD’s python elimination program, deploying python hunters into parts of Collier County, approximately 50 miles south of Sanibel Island, to where the snakes are moving to find more prey.
Note: There will be no live pythons presented as part of this program.
During “Ding” Darling Day, the Refuge Nature Store will be selling an assortment of wallets, coin purses, and other handmade gifts produced by Crum and his partner from the skins of pythons he has captured.
The 31st annual eco-festival runs all day October 20 with free activities that include free admission to Wildlife Drive and refuge tram tours, live wildlife presentations, animal yoga, nature sketching, origami, archery clinics, hot dogs, a touch tank and butterfly house, face-painting, and kids’ nature crafts. Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp winner presentations, plus conservation art activities will take place throughout the day. Refuge officials estimate the value of free activities that day at $75 for a family of four.
Visit www.dingdarlingdays.com for a full schedule of the day’s events or call 239-472-1100 for more information.