Donna Kalil, python hunter

by | May 31, 2023

Donna Kalil–a python removal contractor (aka “python hunter”)—recalls growing up in Venezuela, with close proximity to the jungle helping cultivate a lifelong passion for snakes and other wildlife. In 1969, Kalil explains, the family moved to Florida, landing initially in north Miami, then relocating to south Miami, where she’s remained—and her many years as a Floridian have only deepened her love of romping through flora to encounter assorted fauna. Professionally, Kalil settled into a career as a real estate agent, which she enjoyed and brought her success. But the attraction of snakes and other wildlife never wavered—indeed, she has a pet Ball python, Benny (that had been abandoned in the Everglades). One day in 2005 proved momentous: Photos appeared of an aligator exploding out of the stomach of a dead 13-foot python, which had eaten the gator. These photos went viral, prompting many people to jump into the python-hunting business. Including Kalil, who eased out of the real estate career, and has since become one of the most successful, highest-profile practitioner of python culling. At last count, Kalil says, she’s exterminated 758 pythons. She later notes she has one hundred such colleagues–one hundred contractors (“hunters”) charged with the same responsibilities she is. Kalil addresses the compensation accorded this work–$13 per hour, plus additional monies, depending on the size of the python. She provides an overview of the Florida Python Challenge, mentioned a few times in this conversation, an annual multi-day competition to catch pythons, while raising awareness about Burmese pythons and other invasive species in Florida that are a threat to the Everglades. [Close-up photo: Kevin Pavlidis] (,

COMEDY CORNER: Nate Bargatze’s “How To Get Bitten By A Snake” (DS edit) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  Pink Floyd’s “Sheep”


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