Python hunter, designer turn invasive snakes into fashion
SARASOTA (FOX 13) - Pythons have become a big problem for southwest Florida. They're invasive, they eat and destroy Florida’s native wildlife, and there's not much that can be done to stop them.
But the giant snakes taking over the ecosystem have a new nemesis. Dusty Crum -- better known as Wildman -- was hired by the South Florida Water Management District to get rid of the invasive species.
Now he's teamed up with a local designer to put his snake skins to good use.
"That's how we do it, son. We take a snake out of the 'Glades one at a time," Crum proclaimed.
He's one of 25 who hunt for invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades with the South Florida Water Management District. For the last year, Crum and his team have captured more than 900 pythons.
"Somebody has to do something about it," he said bluntly.
With dozens of snakes for him to keep, he's back at home putting those snake skins to good use.
"None of us are killers or hunters. We don't like doing this and killing the snakes, but it's [an] environmental hunt. We need to do it to protect our natives," said Crum.
Partnering with Nikki Sedacca of 530 Burns Gallery, the skins are now becoming fashion.
"We are doing some wonderful fashion pieces; vests, skirts and a lot of simple handbags that you can wear," said Sedacca.
Each snakeskin averages about 10 feet. Nikki and Dusty can get about 20 wallets out of each one, plus countless other pieces and accessories.
"I like that we are taking a situation that is not a good situation and doing something about it," said Sedacca.
The snakeskin goods range in value from $100 for a wallet to $3,000 for a skirt. Theirs are pieces of work that remain priceless if you consider the overall benefit.
"It's exciting and then it's rewarding because, you know, once you remove a snake from the Everglades, you save countless birds' and mammals' lives," said Crum.
On Friday, April 6 from 6 to 9 p.m., 530 Burns Gallery in Sarasota will host an opening reception featuring wall hangings of snakeskin's captured by Wildman and tanned by Floridian artisans.
There will also be samples of luxury snakeskin jewelry and accessories from the new collection.
Wildman is developing a fund for a portion of the proceeds to go directly to the python hunters who are putting in long hours of work at minimum wage.
For more information on the Python Elimination Program led by South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, visit https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/python-program.
To view a map tracking the locations of Burmese Pythons, visit https://www.eddmaps.org/florida/distribution/viewmap.cfm?sub=20461.