He's been bitten, strangled, and had his neck nearly snapped, but Florida's preeminent python hunter is diving back into the Everglades for another season of his reality TV show.
Dusty "Wildman" Crum is set to return to Discovery Channel next year for Season 2 of Guardians of the Glades, which promises more blood and broken bones for the titular guardians.
The series follows Crum and his crew of longtime python hunters in South Florida as they wade through the slough in search of huge invasive reptiles that are decimating local wildlife. In Season 1, Crum bagged snakes larger than two men. One of the creatures stretched 16 and a half feet. Crum tells New Times it was the scariest moment of the show for him.
During a fight with the gargantuan snake in Episode 6, Crum called out "Camera guy! Camera guy!" for the crew to help remove the monster from his neck — something not normally seen in Discovery shows, in which the camera crew remains offscreen.
"In the finale, I was wrapped up by a big snake. I was calm until I thought it was gonna break my neck... I was probably seconds away from something bad happening," Crum says.
For Season 2, Crum says he's coming into the hunt with greater care and better gear. "I learned something from that: Can't let it get around you like that," he says.
This past September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) increased funding for the Python Elimination Program, of which Crum is a part. According to the SFWMD, the board tripled the budget for the program, bringing it close to $1 million, doubling the ranks of paid python hunters.
For Crum, more money means he and his crew can use new technology, such as endoscopes to find burrowed pythons and water DNA tests to pinpoint the areas where they congregate. The University of Florida will also partner with hunters for more sophisticated tracking.
This time around, viewers can expect to also see body-cam footage from each of the hunters, giving a more intimate angle as they wade waist-deep in murky water in search of pythons.
Crum says he's grateful for the platform the show has given him to educate the public about the dangers of pythons and the effect they've had on the ecosystem by eating alligators, deer, and other native wildlife.
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"It's about spreading the message and getting people involved. With the big platform Discovery Channel has, it's helped us tremendously," he says.
The Python Elimination Program has captured 2,713 snakes since its inception in 2017, according to the SFWMD, and newfound support might be the reason behind a spike in captures since this past September.
"Now the government stepped up and threw money in, and people are taking it seriously," Crum says. "I'm real proud to be a part of it. It encourages other people to stand up."
Season 2 of Guardians of the Glades premieres Tuesday, January 7, at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel.