Alien Hunters

They protected our country. Now these vets are protecting the Everglades' exotic ecosystem.

December 09, 2014

“The snake hunter himself looks like someone who stomped out of the bush to a soundtrack of dueling banjos. Stout and burly at age 57, [Tom] Rahill has spring-blue eyes stuck in a tan face and long locks that are usually tied in a ponytail. A talker, words constantly whistle through his mouth—double time if he's had coffee. He'll clog your ear with an AP biology class' worth of Latin plant names, bust out a self-penned country song, or detail plot lines of the four unpublished children's books he's written. But for a moment, the Plantation native is uncharacteristically quiet, all business as he futzes with a handheld GPS to get the exact coordinates of Ibzan's last stand. Ultimately, he will drop off the snake in a bin, to later be euthanized by scientists from the University of Florida, who perform studies on the python bodies.  ‘Is this cool?’ he finally blurts. ‘How many birds and mammals did we save getting this dude?’ "

—From “Military Vets Heal PTSD by Capturing Burmese Pythons in the Everglades,” Kyle Swenson’s New Times story about veterans combating the exotic slitherers and helping to protect a fragile ecosystem

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