‘Guardians of the Glades’ – Crum and company go high-tech in Season 2
The snakes are bigger and more abundant in Season 2 of “Guardians of the Glades.” Worse, they’re working their way north.
In the new season, which airs Tuesdays on Discovery Channel, it’s the rainy season in Florida, which has raised water levels and turned storm ditches, lakes and rivers into highways for invasive species like the Burmese python. So with the reptiles now being found as far north as Jacksonville, Everglades-based snake hunter Dusty Crum and his crew are stepping up their efforts and employing new techniques and technologies to track them down and hopefully reduce their number.
“They’re spreading up through Florida now at a rapid pace that we never could imagine,” Crum explains. “And we’re working with scientists (so) we can do water samples and tell how many pythons are in the area by trace amounts of python DNA that are left in the water when the pythons lay their eggs.
“So with the new technology and the decline of wildlife in these areas, we know that the pythons are moving. We know that they’re getting established in new places. As they’ve decimated food in the Everglades, obviously they’re moving in every different direction and searching for more food.”
Crum points out that the pythons of South Florida have evolved to where they can withstand lower temperatures, which would make the lower third of the United States a potential habitat. But he adds, “Hopefully, we’ve got years before that happens.”
In addition to DNA testing, he and his team are using specialized cameras — which can get into holes where the snakes retreat — and airboats and canoes to enter areas inaccessible by other means. The motorless, silent canoes are especially invaluable, he says, because they enable them to sneak up on their quarry.
To date, Crum estimates he’s caught more than 3,000 pythons between his personal business and his water-management work. And his labors have born fruit as he’s seen wildlife return to some areas.
“I saw a raccoon and I got chills,” he says. “I’ve got chills right now just talking about it because I wanted to scream and yell I was so happy. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a raccoon in my life but it was great.”