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‘Ding’ Darling lectures to follow python hunter, researcher

By Staff | Mar 19, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Mike Kirkland manages the python program for the South Florida Water Management District.

Researchers believe Burmese pythons have decimated the food supply of prey in the eastern Everglades and Miami-Dade County, according to Michael Kirkland, python program manager for the South Florida Water Management District. In response, he has expanded SFWMD’s python elimination program, deploying python hunters into Collier, to where the snakes are moving to find more prey.

He, along with python hunter Dusty “Wildman” Crum, will present “Pythons: The Hunter, the Science” on March 22 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at J.N. “Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, as part of the 2019 “Ding” Darling Friday Lecture series.

“We used to find birds, ducks, deer, rabbits, otters, and raccoons,” Crum, who largely captures snakes – typically barefoot – in the eastern Everglades, said. “Where I’ve been hunting, there are none of these animals left.”

Crum, who has appeared in a number of television spots, including on the “Today Show” in 2017 and “Swamp Mysteries” on the History Channel in 2018, will appear with Kirkland for a discussion of solutions to the problem from the perspective of science and hunting.

HighTower/Thomas & Swartz Wealth Management sponsors the 11-lecture series with support from the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge. The free lectures are held on Fridays through April 12. The remaining schedule is listed below; some include book signings:

JOEY WAVES Dusty “Wildman” Crum has appeared on national television hunting pythons.

– March 29: Marine scientist Lauren Blickley, “Drastic Plastic – Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution”

– April 5: Ornithologist Dr. Jerry Lorenz, “Flamingos & Spoonbills: Pink Canaries in a Coal Mine”

– April 12: Author Denege Patterson, “Five Islands Never Flooded: A Tour of the Islands of Pine Island Sound, Florida”*

*book signing to follow

Seating for the lectures is limited and available on a first-come basis. Early arrivals can save one seat and one extra one with personal items, then may explore the Visitor & Education Center or Indigo Trail before the lecture starts. Saved seats must be filled 15 minutes before lecture time.

For more information, call 239-472-1100 ext. 241 or visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/lecture-and-film-series. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.