Discovery's 'Guardians of the Glades' Shows Viewers the Life of a Paid Python Hunter (VIDEO)

Barb Oates
Exclusive Discovery

If you’re not from around the Florida Everglades, chances are you don’t know too much about the Burmese python problem, nor have you heard about Dusty “The Wildman” Crum. Dusty’s made it his life mission — and business — to save the Everglades from Burmese Pythons that have been taking over the state and decimating certain mammals and bird species. He’s the focus of Discovery Channel’s new Guardians of the Glades, which premieres Tuesday, May 28 at 10/9c.

Barefoot (more on that later) and barehanded, Crum leads a team of eclectic fellow snake hunters, experts and survivalists as they trudge through swamps to stop the python takeover and save their beloved home and the diminishing wildlife who inhabit it.

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So what’s Crum’s biggest fear in this pulse-pounding career? “Getting drowned in the water by having a snake wrapped around me and I can’t do nothing about it.”

You would think he’d carry a knife or some kind of weapon, right?

“No. I believe that God is not going to put anything in front of me that I can’t handle. The snake doesn’t have knives or weapons either. It’s just one of them things,” Crum says. “I don’t want the snake to suffer pain. It’s not their fault they’re in this situation. They’re just trying to eat, reproduce, and live their life as they’re created in. If you stab a snake with a knife, the snake has a very small kill spot. About a dime-sized kill spot on the top of their skull cap. So if you don’t hit that spot, the snake is going to suffer pain. It’s gonna get away.”

Or it could bite you, then start trying to put their coils around you. “And it’s not like they're gonna squeeze you and suffocate you,” Crum explains. “They’re gonna squeeze you so hard, with such force, that your blood pressure elevates to the point where your heart just can’t handle it. And your heart will explode.”

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Surprisingly, a lot of people still want to hunt pythons.

Crum is one of a select few registered hunters in South Florida who prowl the Glades for pythons. “There were over 1,000 applicants, and they selected less than 1 percent — 25 hunters out of that,” Crum states. “We are the only ones who get paid to do it.”

Registered bounty hunters of the South Florida Water Management District Python Elimination Program receive $50 for the first four feet of snake, and $25 for each foot thereafter — so removing a 10-foot snake from the Everglades is worth $200. Equally important for these hunters is the size of the snake and the amount of eggs that snake could be carrying (female snakes can lay around 100 eggs a year).

“Every snake that we capture we put into a database with a GPS marked location, and record the temperature, the time, the conditions, and everything. That helps us predict a better future of activity for the snakes going forward,” Crum says. “They’ll measure it, weigh it, and then they’ll give the snake back to us.”

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Crum has a deep respect for the majestic reptiles he’s caught, and Guardians of the Glades not only follows him through the hunt, but also shows what happens after he validates his bounty, including his tanning techniques. “They are a beautiful creature, and I want to try to utilize every piece that I can,” he says. “To monetize it and to keep our hunts going, but also out of respect for the animal.”

And as to why he does all this without shoes?

“Well, the snake doesn’t have shoes, he doesn’t even have feet or legs,” Crum says. “This is Florida and I’ve grown up this way. It's kind of a healing experience. I believe the Earth releases energy and I can pick that up through my feet, and also it’s almost a healing experience, I think. It’s therapy. … So when you're barefoot the Earth kind of massages your feet and it’s more natural to me.”

Check out the video below for an exclusive clip from the first episode.

Guardians of the Glades, Tuesdays at 10/9c, Discovery Channel