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SFWMD Python Hunters Surpass 100 Snakes Eliminated

SFWMD Python Hunters Surpass 100 Snakes Eliminated

Two nights of seven kills mark unprecedented success for pilot program battling invasive predator

Homestead, FL – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board’s Python Elimination Program continued its milestone success this week, with seven snakes eliminated in two days. This brings the total number of the invasive predators killed to 102 snakes in just 53 days.

On the night of Monday, May 15, four of the invasive predators were killed and three more were eliminated Tuesday night. The snakes eliminated during the last two nights include:

Number 96: Tom Rahill, of Plantation, and killed a 15-foot 4-inch snake on the banks of the L-30 Canal off Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. This was the fourth snake captured by Rahill, who is also head of the Swamp Apes group that leads veterans on snake hunts to combat stress. Click on the image to see larger version.

Number 97: Jamison Meyer, of Cutler Bay, killed a 6-foot snake on the banks of the L-31 Canal in western Miami-Dade County south of Tamiami Trail. This is the 14th snake captured by Meyer, who has more than 30 years of experience hunting in the Everglades, including more than eight years of experience hunting pythons. Click on the image to see larger version.

Number 98 and Number 99: Michael Valcarce, of Miami, killed a 6-foot and a 5-foot 6-inch snake on the L-28 Canal. Valcare has the most kills with 19 snakes eliminated. Click on image to see larger version.

Number 100: Kyle Penniston, of Homestead, captured the milestone 100th snake, a 4-foot-long python killed on the banks of the C-111 Canal in South Miami-Dade County. Penniston has killed more than 20 pythons in the last three years. Click on the image to see larger version.

Number 101: The only female hunter participating in the Python Elimination Program, Donna Kalil of Miami, killed an approximately 7-foot-long snake along the L-28 Tieback Canal. Kalil has been hunting snakes in the Everglades since she was 8 years old. Click on the image to see larger version

Number 102: Hunter Nicholas Banos, of Coral Springs, captured the 102nd python, a 7-foot-long snake captured along the L-67 Canal in western Miami-Dade County. Banos has eliminated more than 50 pythons since 2012 through various hunting programs. Click on the image to see larger version.

So far, 102 pythons measuring a combined length of more than 930 feet, the equivalent of more than two and a half football fields, have been eliminated from the Everglades by SFWMD python hunters. That is an average of nearly two snakes killed per day.

At least 40 percent of the snakes eliminated have been females, many found with 30 to 80 eggs inside that were also destroyed. This prevented the birth of more than 1,500 more of the invasive predators this year alone.

About the Python Elimination Program

SFWMD chose 25 professional python hunters from 1,000 hunters who applied. These independent contractors are paid $8.10 per hour up to eight hours daily. Depending on the size of the snake presented, there is an additional on-the-spot cash payment of $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet. An additional $100 is given for each eliminated python nest with eggs.

To date, the Python Elimination Program has paid out approximately $17,000 in bounties and $18,000 in hourly fees for an average cost of less than $400 per snake eliminated.

Each python would have eaten dozens of native animals such as blue herons, rabbits and wrens over the next several years. These invasive predators have been decimating native populations that are crucial to the Everglades habitat. The elimination of 102 snakes will potentially save more than 15,000 native animals and help save the Everglades.

The pilot program began on March 25 and will run until June 1.

Charles Murphy News 5/17

News Cast for May 17th:

Guy Harvey outdoors confirmed they put in a bid to develop the Okee Tantee marina Tuesday.

Basinger residents are concerned about a possible livestock market being developed along US 98 north.  The county planning board is due to discuss the project May 23. The Florida cabinet will discuss a 41 hundred acre easement for the Triple S Ranch in Okeechobee May 23 for 7 million dollars.

Okeechobee County Fire Rescue rolled out a new engine for the fleet Tuesday.  The county committed over 4 hundred thousand dollars for the new truck. Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says the truck can handle almost any call.

Child porn defendant and child abduction suspect, Jorge Guerrero, testified at his federal trial that he loved Diana Alvarez and the two engaged in some form of sexual activity. Prosecutors allege he had illicit photos of the 9-year-old on his cell phone. The girls’ mother, Rita Hernandez collapsed after testimony this week.  The girl has been missing over a year.

34 year old Joseph Inman of Okeechobee eluded deputies for five days, beating them in a foot chase and dragnet on South East 40th Avenue.  Inman faces grand theft of an ATV, resisting and shop lifting charges after being tackled by a city cop at Walmart Monday.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his bus tour to Okeechobee for the republican Lincoln day dinner Saturday at the OK Corral and gun Club. He focused his remarks on economic growth, being innovative to create new industries, a strong education system, and fiscal conservatism.

Sports Cast for May 17th:

Shytria Ash won the Prestige Award at the Lady Brahman girls basketball banquet. The senior forward says she was glad to be a part of a team that won 32 games in the past two years. She says she hopes the younger girls keep winning games by working hard all year. Ash was known for her defense and toughness in the paint and says she always wanted to give maximum effort.

Ash plans to join the United States Air Force after graduation.

The sports schedule today includes Moore Haven vs Lakeland Christian in the Class 3A softball semifinals at Dodger Town in Vero Beach at 4:50 pm.

Glades Day meets Aucilla Christian in another state semifinal in Class 2 A at 10:30 this morning.

Commissioner Adam Putnam Provides Wildfire Update for Florida

Commissioner Adam Putnam Provides Wildfire Update for Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Forest Service announced today that 2,163 wildfires have burned over 170,000 acres in Florida this year, with 127 active wildfires burning as of today, May 15, 2017. Current conditions by county, burn bans, and helpful tips regarding wildfires in Florida can be found here.

“Even with rain across large parts of Florida over the weekend, Florida is still experiencing drought conditions and elevated wildfire danger – and will continue to for some time,” Commissioner Adam H. Putnam said. “Residents and visitors need to pay attention to and comply with local burn bans and should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

Conditions are forecast to get even drier and warmer into late spring and early summer. May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year in Florida, and that is the expectation for 2017. Commissioner Putnam asked Governor Scott to issue an executive order on April 11, 2017 in order to provide full resources to combat wildfires.

Wildfires in Florida usually start and spread quickly, leaving little time to prepare for a possible evacuation. Homeowners can complete a few simple tasks that will help to defend their home against wildfire. One of the best ways to reduce a home’s wildfire risk is to create 30 feet of defensible space around the home. When creating defensible space, begin with the area immediately surrounding the home, about 3 feet out on all sides. Make sure this space is free of tall, fire-prone plants and materials. Keep this area clean and free of dead plant material and flammable mulches. Instead, opt for low growing, fire resistant plants and materials and use mulches, such as rocks or chunky bark. Deliberately space all plants so that none are placed directly under windows or vents around the house.

To increase home survivability, Floridians can do the following:

  • Keep mulch and pine needles away from your home, fence, and deck;
  • Keep roof and gutter free of pine needles;
  • Keep flammables away from your home;
  • Store fire wood at least 30 feet from your home;
  • Remove dead vegetation and debris from under the deck and within 10 feet of your home; and
  • Make wildfire preparedness a family project.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.The last time a similar executive order was issued was in June 2011.

Charles Murphy News 5/16

News Cast for May 16th:

Two mobile homes were destroyed after a fire Saturday at 6025 South East 91st Trail. An estimated 75 thousand in property loss was reported and another 150 thousand dollars in person possessions. No one was injured in the blaze that was fueled by 15 mile per hour winds.

The State Fire Marshall will determine the cause of the blaze at the Lauretta Landis residence.  County and city firemen protected three nearby homes from the flames.

In the courts, 24-year-old Avian Jackson received 9 and a half years in prison for human trafficking two clients at the Vision Quest program for prostitution.  Jackson picked up the two 15 year olds on a day outing to Sailfish Splash in Stuart, and took them to a Lantana motel.  One of the 15 year old victims was hit by a car during a related drug deal and hospitalized.

Jackson was convicted of human trafficking, lewd and lascivious battery, computer pornography possession and child abuse.

An Okeechobee woman had quite the shock on I-95 earlier this month when a strap on a bike holder broke on the vehicle of Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, the bike fell to the ground and damaged five vehicles. This 911 call captured the first call. About 1 thousand dollars in damage was done to the Ford Focus. The Sheriff has committed to paying for all the damages.

Sports Cast for May 16th:

Shaquoy Ferrol was named Co-MVP for the Brahman boys’ basketball team this year. The senior also earned a scholarship to attend Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas to play basketball.

Ferrol said he appreciated the trophy and playing with his friends and teammates. Ferrol averaged over 21 points and 9 and a half rebounds per game this year.

He says now he must take the challenge to maximize his potential and play four years in college. Ferrol earned All-State designation as a junior but did not make it this year.

No school sports scheduled today in Okeechobee.

Charles Murphy News 5/15

News Cast for May 15th:

Okeechobee County commissioners figure to have two maybe three proposals to consider for the development of Okee Tantee tomorrow. Tuesday is the deadline to submit proposals. Guy Harvey Outdoors and Bass Pro are expected to submit proposals by the deadline.

As much as 4 thousand acres burned in Glades county after a brush fire started Saturday. The Florida Forest Service had 10 bull dozers on hand trying to control the fire which was 25 percent contained on Saturday.  It was threatening hunting camps east of US 27 and south of route 70.

The Coquina water management board voted 2-1 Friday to continue to have the sheriff patrol their roads.  An interlocal agreement is likely to be presented to the county commission soon. County commissioner David Hazellief criticized the conduct of those in opposition and compared Coquina meetings to a circus. He suggested the Governor get involved.

A Glades County woman received pretrial diversion and a fine for eating marijuana in her home.  65 year old Kathryn Lavender says she eats the plant petals to ease her pain from cancer.  Deputies located the three plants in her Lakeport home last December while they were conducting a death investigation.

Update on shooting from this morning 

  • Transported to trauma center: 21-year-old male with wounds to neck, chest and lower back; 17-year-old female with wound to lower back. 
  • Treated at Florida Hospital Heartland: 21-year-old male with wound to wrist, 19-year-old female with wound to knee and a 21-year-old female with wounds to her thigh. 
  • Detectives are working leads and are asking anyone who was at the scene but fled during the shooting to call the HCSO or Crimestoppers. 
  • No more updates expected today. I will be out of the office Monday and Tuesday so Nell Hays will be handling the PIO duties those days. 

Sports Cast for May 15th:

Okeechobee lost to both Vero Beach and Sebastian River at the spring jamboree football game held Friday. Vero Beach defeated Okeechobee 28-10 and Sebastian defeated Okeechobee 14-7 in the shortened games.

Kysell Richardson ran for a 15 yard touchdown against Vero Beach, and Jarrett Mills hit a 40 yard field goal.

Lamar Williams ran for a six yard touchdown against Sebastian.

Coach Chris Branham says his team will have some growing pains but they can improve and put a competitive team on the field this fall. Branham says his passing game looked good but pass protection will have to improve. There are no sports events today at Okeechobee High School.

Charles Murphy News 5/12

News Cast for May 12th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners:

  • Agreed to move plans for a new Alderman building for Tax Collector, Property Appraiser and Drivers License bureau to the former Okeechobee Rehab site.
  • The building would measure 13 thousand square feet and add additional parking.
  • They also are planning to demolish the Rehab Building.
  • They opted to build a 37 hundred and 50 square foot office building to serve public works and the County road Department administration.
  • Commissioners approved a 1 point 86 million bid to improve drainage at River Lake Estates.  The project could begin this summer and take nine months.
  • The commission approved a list of names to create a committee to review proposals to develop the Okee Tantie Recreation Area, they are Ed Lehman, John Campbell, Don Fox, Frank Irby and Wes Williamson

7 acres burned in a brush fire which threatened a home and five out buildings near Hilo Acres on 710 yesterday afternoon.  State and county firemen put out the blaze.

A 27 year old Clewiston man was in critical condition after a roll over crash on US 27 Thursday morning.  Joseph Edens was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital.

The annual scholarship night last night at OHS included one in memory of a murder victim.  Eric Christensen presented a 12 hundred dollar scholarship in memory of his wife Bobby who was murdered in the couples home.   The scholarship goes to a student who wants to study forensics. Christensen says he got support world wide on a go fund me page

A not guilty plea entered by the 10 year old on the autism spectrum accused of battering a teacher.  Although the victim wants to drop charges the state is proceeding with the case because they claim the student was involved in 55 other incidents of violence involving other students and staff.

Sports Cast for May 12th:

The Braham football defensive unit might be the strongest unit on the team next fall. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Smith says several younger players have been impressive this spring

The Brahmans are also switching to a 3-4 defense as they have less size, but more speed and agility on the defense this year. Linebacker Lindsey Major has made a bid to be a starter this year as he comes up from the JV. He says he’s soaking all the coaching in this spring

Okeechobee plays the spring jamboree tonight at Sebastian River.  Okeechobee takes on the Sharks for one quarter and then Vero Beach for one quarter.

Okeechobee was well represented in the first go around of the florida high school rodeo finals last night.

Z-mann Zamora won the tie down calf roping and McKenna Hickson won the breakaway roping.

The rodeo continues at 7 pm tonight and Saturday at the Ag Civic Center.

Charles Murphy News 5/11

News Cast for May 11th:

A rally held this morning for the 10-year-old arrested for allegedly punching and scratching a teacher at Okeechobee Achievement Academy. The group wants the state attorney to drop the felony charge against the child. The rally took place at the main light and Flagler Park.

A 44-year-old charged with trafficking in pain pills, hydromorphone. Kerry Wimberly was stopped for a traffic violation on North West 36th Street at US 98. He briefly struggled with deputies, arrest reports say. Charges include resisting arrest, attempted escape, cocaine possession and driving on a suspended license.  75 pain pills were reportedly seized.

The Florida highway patrol still looking for answers in the death of 23-year-old Dennis Cummings last week and why he was lying in the middle of Dark Hammock Road before he was struck and killed. Sgt. Mark Wysocky says they are talking with witnesses trying to learn what happened that night. Another issue is whether Cummings might have been hit by a car before the truck driven by 29 year old Jorge Ferrera Martinez struck him.

Sports Cast for May 11th:

Kysell Richardson is excited to get the chance to be the Brahman starting QB this spring. With Logan Etherton away at baseball, Richardson has stepped in and performed well. He says he’s pleased with how he’s performed. If Richardson plays QB, the team needs to find another wide receiver to take his place.  He led the team in receptions last year.

Coach Chris Branham says Richardson is a gifted receiver but was always a capable QB.

The Brahmans take on Vero Beach and Sebastian River tomorrow night in Sebastian in a jamboree.  Okeechobee will play Sebastian for a half and then Vero Beach for two quarters.

The state high school finals rodeo begins tonight at the Ag Civic Center.

The Okeechobee county schools track meet is also today at Okeechobee High School.

Charles Murphy News 5/10

News Cast for May 10th:

Governor Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 10 to create a 1.5-billion-dollar reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The legislature did not include the Governors 2 hundred-million-dollar allocation for the Herbert Hoover dike this year. Also included in the proposed state budget was 35 million for northern everglades restoration in our region, nearly 168 million for everglades restoration, which includes 106 million for a reservoir called the C-43 near LaBelle. 64 million is included for the Lake Okeechobee reservoir.

In the courts a convicted bank robber walking on the Martin Grade near the Okeechobee County line in the middle of the night in early 2 thousand 15, had his day in court and received 15 years in prison for the robbery in Land O Lakes.

37 year old Derek Jordan was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon.  A Florida wildlife officer spotted Jordan as he was walking, asked for help, ran his information, and found out he was wanted for the bank robbery.

Glades County Commissioners Tuesday

  • Honored the Teachers of the Year for Glades County Schools
  • Bryan Browning Moore Haven Middle High School
  • Susan Prowant, Moore Haven Elementary,
  • Andrea Tindall of West Glades School
  • Amy Carr of Pemayetv Emahakv Middle School
  • And Alisha Pearce of Pemayetv Emahakv Elementary School.

They also honored the honor students in the graduation class at Moore Haven High School and class valedictorian Taryn McCain and Salutatorian Olivia Everett.

The commission rezoned over 36 acres at 1694 Williams Road in Ortona for an RV Park and a rezoning of 3 point 4 acres on US 27 near Saddle Lane for a business that sells all terrain vehicles.

The county also didn’t get any bids on the Glades Inn property and will look at other ways to sell the property. They would like to attract a motel, grocery store or a commercial business the community would support.

Sports Cast for May 10th:

OHS baseball and softball had rough nights last night in the regional players. The baseball team made five errors as they fell to Dwyer 9-0. A five run third broke open the game for the Panthers. Brahman Coach Eric Kindell says the teams gloves betrayed them.

Seven Errors hurt the Lady Brahmans as they fell behind 2-0 in the third and lost to South Fork 7-0 in the regional semifinals last night.

Okeechobee finishes the season with 17 victories.

Moore haven softball defeated Admiral Farragut 5-4 to reach the state semifinals on May 17th against Lakeland Christian.

Clean bird feeders to help protect cardinals and other birds

Clean bird feeders to help protect cardinals and other birds

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received reports of sick and dead cardinals in north Florida from concerned residents who have bird feeders. Artificial feeding stations, such as bird feeders, can draw large numbers of birds into one area. Cleaning bird feeders can decrease the potential for spreading diseases.

Initial reports via the online wild bird mortality surveillance system came in from northwest Florida (Santa Rosa, Bay and Holmes counties). Three to four weeks later, reports came in from north central Florida (Dixie, Marion, Flagler and Duval counties). Observations of other dead songbird species were rare in these reports.

Sick cardinals appear to move slowly, often hiding in ground vegetation with limited ability to fly. They seem capable of only short flight distances a few feet off the ground.

The FWC collected two cardinal carcasses and submitted them to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, where laboratory evaluation confirmed the birds were infected with salmonella species. These bacteria are transmitted by ingestion of contaminated feces. For this reason it is very important to clean bird feeders regularly, especially during disease outbreaks.

If you have bird feeders, take the time to follow the guidelines below to minimize the risk of disease transmission:

  • Use a diluted bleach solution to clean your bird feeders every two to three weeks. First, discard old feed. Then, while wearing gloves, use a scrub brush and soapy water to remove crusted material from the feeder. Next, soak the feeder in a 1:10 bleach solution for 10 minutes. Rinse the feeder with water and place in a sunny area to dry thoroughly before use.
  • Clean birdbaths in a similar fashion.
  • Minimize crowding at feeders. Provide enough feeders spaced far enough apart so birds do not have to jostle each other for space at a feeder.
  • Rake clean any debris (feed and bird feces) that accumulates around the feeder area.
  • Do not clean bird feeders and birdbaths near human living and eating areas. Salmonella can cause illness in people, so it is best to take precautions such as wearing rubber gloves and washing hands thoroughly.

If you observe dead cardinals or other dead songbirds in your yard, remove your bird feeders for a period of at least two weeks. Report your observations to the wild bird mortality surveillance system at MyFWC.com/Bird.

Additional information on salmonella in songbirds can be found at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center.

4-H Summer Camps

4-H Summer Camps

The Okeechobee County 4-H Extension Program is, once again, excited to offer summer camps for the 2017 summer!

Camp Schedules are as follows:

H2O Camp:     June 12-16, June 19-23, June 26-30, July 24-28

Cooking Camp:    June 19-23, June 26-30, July 10-14, July 17-21

History Camp:     July 10-14, July 17-21

Horse Camp:       June 5-9, June 12-16

Shooting Sports Camp:    July 10-14

Before you submit forms and sign up for camps at the extension office consider these guidelines:

  • All registrations must be complete and accompanied by payment (cash or check) to be accepted
  • Each camp registration submitted must include the 2 page Health/Participation form
  • Horse Camp attendees must also complete the Horse Camp Packet (also below)
  • Completed registrations should be returned to the Okeechobee County Extension Office  (458 US Hwy 98 N)

Adult and Teen Counselor application packets are available at the Extension Office

See below for Registration Forms:

2017 H2O, History, Cooking Camps registration

2017 Health-Part. form for all camps


2017 Horse Camp registration

Horse Camp Packet


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