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Humane Killing Methods for Nonnative Reptiles

Collage of images featuring a Nile Monitor, green iguana, tegu and Burmese python

The information below may be used as a guide to humanely kill most nonnative reptiles, including large constrictors and lizards.

Nonnative reptiles are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty law. There is an ethical and legal obligation to ensure nonnative reptiles are killed in a humane manner.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends a two-step process to prevent suffering and destroy the brain completely for humane killing of reptiles.

Many methods are available to kill nonnative reptiles. Regardless of the method you use, you must ensure the following two steps are completed to humanely kill a reptile:

Step 1:

Your method should result in the animal losing consciousness immediately.

Step 2:

You should then destroy the animal's brain by “pithing” which prevents the animal from regaining consciousness.

For more information visit the 2020 AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals.

captive bolt gun with a  target drawn above the python brain

If used correctly the following tools should result in the immediate loss of consciousness when applied with a shot directed to the brain of the reptile:

  • Captive bolt (pictured left, standard velocity of 55 meters/sec)
  • Firearms or pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air guns (muzzle energy of 300 foot-pounds (FPE) recommended)*

*The AVMA recommends a firearm with a muzzle energy of 300 FPE for animals weighing up to 400lbs and 1,000 FPE for animals over 400lbs. Other tools may also be adequate to achieve an immediate loss of consciousness and must be followed by pithing. Be sure to follow property-specific and local firearm rules for each area where you intend to kill nonnative reptiles. 

illustration of a python skull and how to pith the brain

Regardless of the method you choose for Step 1, you should complete the following process for STEP 2:

  • After rendering the reptile unconscious, ensure the animal's brain is destroyed by “pithing”.
  • Insert a small rod (a rigid metal tool like a screwdriver, spike or pick) into the cranial cavity using deliberate, multi-directional movement, ensuring destruction of the entire brain.

Members of the public may not transport pythons alive and must humanely kill pythons at the capture location.  However, python skins or meat may be kept and/or sold.  Some Burmese pythons removed from the Everglades that have been tested for mercury levels have contained amounts of mercury considered too high for human consumption. Though it is not illegal to eat python meat, the Florida Department of Health recently finalized a consumption advisory for Burmese pythons found in Florida, advising “Do Not Consume Python” due to the high levels of mercury found in python meat. For more information regarding this advisory, please contact the Florida Department of Health.