If you've always wanted to see a congressman give a press conference in front of a writhing 11-foot Burmese python, well, just click play above.
Intrepid Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) hit the Everglades Thursday for a "great python/publicity hunting adventure," as the Tampa Bay Times put it, joining more than one thousand other Floridians who've signed up to hunt the invasive species during the state's monthlong "Python Challenge" contest.
"Where else but in Florida do you have a U.S. Senator going out to hunt an invasive exotic species that eats alligators and strangles children in their cribs?" Rick Wilson, a veteran Sunshine State Republican strategist, laughed to the Miami Herald.
Nelson didn't find any pythons during his day-long excursion -- he said it wasn't cold enough to coax them out -- but managed to put on a good show. He arrived in the 'Glades hopping out of Florida Wildlife Commissioner Ron Bergeron's gold-trimmed black Hummer H2, a vehicle embossed with "Alligator Ron" logos, the Herald reports, and set off with an entourage of reporters and wildlife experts spread across five airboats.
Garnering publicity, he said, is part of the effort. "There's a threat to the Everglades," Nelson told reporters from a remote island in the river. "We want to point out."
The Burmese and other massive pythons have become a huge problem in the delicate Everglades ecosystem, currently under a multi-million dollar restoration effort. Scientist have noticed that the arrival of the snakes -- believed to be the work of irresponsible owners who dumped unwanted pets in the "swamp," or escapees from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew -- coincides with decreasing populations of native species including bobcats, white-tailed deer, rabbit, and foxes.
The state has even tried using bomb-sniffing dogs to hunt the snakes, and Nelson himself initiated the federal ban on the import of Burmese pythons and several others. His mission to eradicate the slithering interlopers led those on Thursday's adventure to generate a few nickname ideas, according to the Herald:
Wilson said that, in some ways, Nelson is like the old-time politicians of Florida, a “character” like former Democratic Gov. “Walkin Lawton” Chiles. During his Thursday excursion, some wondered what Nelson’s nickname should be.
Papa Gator? The He-Snake? The King Snake? Python Bill?
“The Last Panther,” said Dan McLaughlin, Nelson’s longtime aide.
“Senator Python,” said Bergeron.
Yeah, here's hoping that doesn't stick. The Python Challenge, which began last Saturday, lasts for several more weeks. The state will award $1,500 for the most snakes and $1,000 for the largest -- but as of Monday, only 11 snakes have been found and killed. View photos from opening weekend below: