Florida trapper Mike Kimmel, better known as the “Python Cowboy”, shared a video on social media earlier this week showing how to grab a large Burmese python without getting bitten. Kimmel and another man came across the python in a parking lot at night on March 23. The run-in turned into a perfect learning opportunity as they filmed an informative—and slightly unsettling—tutorial video on how to safely approach and handle the huge, invasive constrictors.
“This good ole Florida boy had handled many invasive snakes in his life but came out with me to see what it was like to catch an invasive python,” Kimmel wrote in an Instagram post. “And he did amazing!”
When the roughly two-minute video starts, the man is already grabbing hold of the snake’s tail as it twists and writhes in his hands. The python, which appears to be at least six feet long, clearly does not want to be caught. It keeps turning its head back at the man trying to bite him, and it gets close around the 30-second mark. As he lifts it further off the ground, the snake turns and strikes again less than 20 seconds later, and this time it almost connects—barely missing his hand and causing the man to drop it on the ground.
Kimmel, meanwhile, keeps filming and coaching the wrangler-in-training as he picks the snake up by the tail again and starts slowly working his hands down toward the snake’s head. This time, though, Kimmel offers up some crucial pointers.
“If you leave most of her body on the ground, she’s gonna calm down for you. Then you can kind of sneak up while I distract her and snatch her head up” Kimmel explains. “And remember, you want to grab as close to the fat part as you can and grab it like you mean it.”
Kimmel’s next few words of advice sound a lot more easily said than done, however.
“If she bites, take it, and I’ll get her off of you,” he warns. “Don’t yank away.”
The anticipation builds as the huge snake lies there calmly and the man slowly brings his right hand down. Then he makes his move, snatching quickly at the python and grabbing a firm hold near the base of its head. He gets a solid handful of snakeskin, but he’s a little too far back on the neck, and nearly allows the python to sink its teeth into his hand.
“That was close,” he says, as the snake tries to wrap itself around his wrist with its mouth still agape. Close but good enough, and the python eventually settles down as the video ends.
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Although grabbing hold of a Burmese python that’s longer than a full-grown man and capable of strangling a small deer is not recommended, doing so with an expert nearby affords some level of safety at least. And Kimmel is most certainly an expert. As the operator of Martin County Trapping and Wildlife Rescue, he makes a living trapping and removing large and dangerous invasive animals from the Sunshine State. Aside from wrangling pythons and hunting feral hogs, he also takes people on guided iguana hunts in Florida’s canal systems.
Kimmel has plenty of job security, as the state is home to roughly 500 different invasive species. Burmese pythons are the worst of the lot, however, and Florida has incentivized the removal of the snakes through its Python Elimination Program since 2017. There are now somewhere between 30,000 and 300,000 pythons inhabiting the state, with the highest concentration living in the Everglades. Burmese pythons are one of the top-five largest snakes in the world, and the state-record python was caught by a group of experienced snake hunters near Miami in 2020. It measured 18 feet, 9 inches in length.