Dave Leibman knows he’s a bit of an outlier in the South Florida Jewish community — or perhaps in any Jewish community.
With pillowcases in tow, and bulky camouflage hunting boots on his feet, Leibman spent a recent day driving his pickup through the Everglades, hoping to nab a Burmese python, a species that can grow large enough to eat a deer.
“It makes a Jewish wife not very happy,” he said, referring to his use of linens to tote the snakes. “Pythons prefer a very high thread count.”
“I’m probably the only Jewish redneck you’ll meet,” he told the Forward.
Despite the culture clash, it was a typical day for Leibman during the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s recent Python Challenge, a month-long competition organized to raise awareness of the state’s problem with invasive Burmese pythons. Originally imported as exotic pets, the snakes are now thriving in the Everglades at the expense of small mammals and other native species.
Leibman keeps a formidable menagerie of rescued animals at home in Weston, a Broward County suburb: four types of non-invasive snakes, wild chameleons, several dogs, a cat and a rabbit. He’s also passionate about raising awareness of the dangers of abandoning domestic animals.
“Unfortunately, people use the Everglades as a dumping ground for pets,” he said. “And in my book, that’s the biggest sin in the world.”
More than 1,500 people registered for the Python Challenge, which ran from January 12 to February 10. But unlike many competitors, who were granted temporary hunting access after completing an online training module, Leibman holds an official permit to capture the snakes year-round. He placed third in the challenge, with a tally of four Burmese pythons.