For Christmas 2020, this West Palm Beach python hunter used the invasive giant’s eggs for some festive cookies – and then some.
While the eggs of an enormous snake may not be your first choice for Christmas treats, they’ll do the job just fine. One Florida python hunter is putting this statement to task, too. And she’s not stopping there.
Veteran tracker and hunter Donna Kalil has harvested 470 pythons since joining Florida’s python elimination program. Her chapter of the initiative, run by South Florida Water Management District, began in 2017 – and she’s bagged these almost 500 enormous serpents in just three short years. Like any hunter worth their salt, she’s not letting them go to waste, either.
So what’s on the menu for Kalil? Everything from Christmas treats to sauces and a hunter’s best friend: jerky.
“I really like making jerky because it’s a great snack, but the meat is also good for pasta sauce and sliders, especially when mixed with some other meat like hog,” Kalil tells the Orlando Sentinel. She shares her spoils with fellow hunters, as well; each of them accustomed to 10+ hour days out in the Everglades tracking and bagging giant pythons. Her expert advice to her contemporaries looking to cook up python?
“Don’t overcook python. It’s really tricky to get it right. It takes practice.”
Her ingenuity doesn’t come without safety precautions, however.
Florida Python Hunter Tests for Mercury in Enormous Predators
For her part, Kalil is playing it smart. She’s not about to poison herself – or others – with the meat and eggs of an invasive species. The veteran “uses a home testing kit to check mercury levels in the meat and cooks only small snakes, which are likely to have the lowest levels of the contaminant. That’s still a big snake as they can reach six feet or more in their first year,” says the Sentinel.
The contaminant is no small matter, either. It’s mercury.
Any predator as large and efficient as a python is likely to accumulate large amounts of mercury in its system. The snakes aren’t dining on deposits of naturally-occurring chemicals, but rather ingesting an entire food-chain worth of other creatures that are.
“Mercury occurs naturally in the earth but it can also build up in ocean waters and places like the Everglades, entering the atmosphere mostly through the burning of fossil fuels and mining and traveling long distances before settling,” the Sentinel clarifies. “Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change mercury into more dangerous methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish, in a process known as bioaccumulation.”
Anything the pythons are feeding on in Florida – like largemouth bass – carry warnings for consumption limits by the Florida Department of Health as a result, too.
In short: the bigger the predator, the more mercury they will have accumulated through the food chain. For pythons, in particular, this can reach astronomical amounts. The giants regularly reach 18 to 20 feet in length and will weigh in excess of 100 lbs when they do.
From Giant Snake Eggs to Christmas Cookies
When Kalil bags herself an egg-bearing female python, she will remove the eggs herself. They’re larger than chicken eggs, and will go a long way in recipes, such as hard-boiled with Sriracha sauce or in frittatas.
As for her Christmas cookies, she uses them in batter just as we would chicken eggs from the grocery store. From there, the veteran hunter’s linear talents as a baker transforms them into gluten-free rocky road cookies. Classic Christmas sugar cookies were on the menu, as well.
And according to the Orlando Sentinel, they were “pretty delicious.”
Kalil is one of the thousands of python hunters in Florida looking to help the state eliminate this horribly-destructive, invasive predator from the Everglades. The snakes are, of course, not native to North America. In fact, they come from the other side of the glove in Southeast Asia. After becoming popular as exotic pets, these enormous serpents put their natural strengths as escape artists to the test. Over time, enough escaped and/or were illegally released into the wild in Florida that they’ve developed an immense – and immensely troublesome – population.
As such, their eggs are certainly better off as Christmas cookies in Florida than they are hatching in the Everglades.
[H/T Orlando Sentinel]