0011 – FWC Holy Thursday Killing

  • Post published:2023-04-18

This is an unusual BLOG in that it is a letter to the FWC regarding their killing and actions in Florida, the Holy Thursday Massacre. Included with my email to them were the previous blogs, Legislation vs Conservation, the Giant African Bullfrog and the Impact of Construction on the Environment.

Should you wish to send any comments to the Governor or FWC please keep it decent. Currently the people of Florida have the moral high ground and decency needs to be maintained for greater effectiveness as hard as this is given the horrific actions taken by them. For more sensitive viewers it is recommended you look at the video by NERD, for those prepared for the harsh truth, got to USARK_Florida. Second image below is disturbing to sensitive viewers.

Please support USARK Florida as this action taken by the FWC officers is too much and needs action so it gets stopped and doesn’t happen again.

FWC Officer posing with a Burmese Python they just killed - Image by Chris Coffee
Posing with Killed Burmese Python – FWC Official

Governor DeSantis


cc: info@USARKFL.net – Elizabeth Wisneski


RE: Florida Wildlife Commission Holy Thursday Massacre

Dear Sirs,

It is with great disappointment that I must address the situation surrounding the ‘Holy Thursday Massacre.’ After viewing the footage, it is clear that the behaviour of the state officers was unacceptable and raises questions about the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and similar departments.

There are several points to consider, including:

  1. Despite FWC’s assurances that people’s pets would not be harmed, the officers slaughtered them. This is inexcusable.
  2. The officers’ use of coercion tactics, along with their intimidating gear and firearms, is concerning. These tactics do not align with the values of a conservation agency.
  3. It is concerning that officers requested civilian assistance to carry out their duties, especially considering the overreach of their actions.
  4. The method used to kill the animals was not humane, and it is concerning that officers were not adequately trained to handle large boids. The use of an anaesthetic to reduce the animals’ stress and pain should have been considered given it was not in the field. It was a controlled environment. Why was the second step of the FWC regulations for humane euthanasia of a snake NOT done by the officers. This would have stopped the incorrectly killed Boa suffering in front of the officers.
  5. It is alarming that inexperienced officers were tasked with handling and identifying the animals, leading to the killing of a boa (Big Shirl) instead of just the pythons.
  6. The FWC must take responsibility for the order to kill the animals and for assigning poorly trained officers to the task. This person(s) should be named and action taken against them as well.
  7. The bodycam footage of the incident should be released to show the FWC’s perspective/ full event.
  8. The FWC owes a statement to the public about the incident, as they are paid for by tax dollars.
  9. The FWC should have extended the time given to the owners to rehome their animals, especially since many had already been rehomed, indicating a willingness to comply. This could have been done through USARK or social media. Further indicating the willingness to comply all the animals were chipped as required by FWC and were on their register.
  10. How can the FWC object to the fact they were filmed. The officers were caught out acting in a completely non-professional and inhumane way and not knowing you on camera it is expected the officers would still act correctly. Why should a member of the public have to advise a law enforcement officer they are filming them in their own premises in order for the officer to act correctly and within the law?

Overall, the behaviour of the officers in this situation is unacceptable and raises serious concerns about the actions of the FWC. This too could set a precedent to other departments / states.

After the recent actions taken by the FWC, I have some concerns about the Commission as a whole. Before I discuss my concerns, I want to clarify that regulations can be helpful as long as they are sensible. Invasive species are generally disliked by most people, and it is important to prevent situations like the Burmese Python from happening in the future.

  1. As the Florida WILDLIFE Commission, shouldn’t the focus be on wildlife rather than pets?
  2. While the FWC could argue that controlling pets helps wildlife, there are some issues with the way they are handling it. Reptiles are being singled out, and I strongly disagree with some of the methods being used.
    1. Iguanas have been in Florida since before they became popular as pets, dating back to the 1960s. Why did the FWC demonize an animal and reptile keepers for an animal that was already in Florida?
    2. The Burmese Pythons that were released into the wild due to a hurricane are an environmental issue, and the FWC’s actions to prevent future issues like double bagging and boxing animals up are reasonable. Disasters like oil spills, structural collapses, car accidents, and storm damage have caused long-term losses, but humanity has developed safer methods to deal with them. We have not stopped building, producing cars, or seeking oil.
    3. The focus has been on reptiles in Florida, but what about other invasive species like feral pigs, Macaques, Giant African Land Snails, Lionfish, and Fire Ants, as well as invasive plants?
    4. The legislation regarding the keeping of reptiles and the infringements deemed by the FWC is excessive. It does not benefit wildlife. For example:
      1. Defecation in a water bowl is an infringement that can result in the loss of a permit. This could lead to the closure of a business. However, it is impossible to predict when a snake will defecate or shed. The regulation needs to be reworded.
      2. A restaurant is given a score and a time frame to reach an acceptable level. A similar system could be introduced for the keeping of animals. For example, an infringement for defecation in a water bowl or cage during an inspection does not necessarily constitute a failure, as is the case for restaurants.
      3. Some agricultural departments offer inspections and grading marks, as well as education rather than prosecution. This could be a more beneficial approach for the FWC to take with their members.
  3. How can a group of developers effectively manage the FWC? As a conservation body, it should be led and managed by individuals with intricate knowledge and understanding of conservation. Ideally, the majority of the team should consist of conservation officials, biologists, or individuals with relevant degrees in the field of nature. Developers, whose interests probably don’t align with conservation, are not the best fit to lead this body. I have attached an article I wrote some years ago (and recently updated) on the Impact of Construction on the Environment, which highlights developers’ limited interest in the environment. The Governor should not be appointing individuals to serve his interests, but rather those who are best suited to manage the FWC as a conservation body.
    1. Just go on to Google Earth and review an area with housing on the urban edge and it was probably natural wetland on the original images.
  4. I also have an article included herewith, Waking up Too Late. The Tegu is a prime example of this. Proactive REASONABLE actions should be taken in advance.
  5. Florida belongs to its people, and as such, the FWC should not be under the direct control of the Governor. The Governor should not be appointing top officials to run the FWC, but rather allow the department to operate independently as a conservation body. At most, the Governor could appoint an individual to act as his/her representative. This person should not carry out the Governor’s or their own wants if it does not align with the conservation body’s interests.
  6. If the FWC is indeed concerned about the environment, then why did they not act on the Tegu issue before it became a problem? If they had listened and collaborated with USARK at the time, this problem could have been prevented.
  7. Furthermore, why has the domestic cat not been targeted as it is one of the world’s most significant environmental destroyers? Is the FWC avoiding this issue because of potential public backlash?
  8. If the FWC’s main concern is the environment, including animals, fauna, and water, why are all invasive species not treated equally? There is a show for Python Hunters, but why not Pig Hunters, Fox Hunters, or Peacock Hunters, to name a few? The FWC should be equally driving the eradication of all invasive species, not just Burmese and African Rock Pythons. After all, an invasive species is an invasive species.
  9. How is the FWC addressing stormwater management in urban and suburban areas that fall under their jurisdiction? Although these areas have been developed, they still form a part of the environment that requires protection. However, due to human development, many animal species have lost suitable habitats. In addition, toxins from cars that come off roads make waterways more sterile, which is harmful to frogs and toads that can otherwise coexist with humans.
  10. What steps has the FWC taken to protect turtles in the region, particularly with regard to nesting sites and safe travel routes when areas are opened up for development? Every year, many animals are killed on roads, and even though they have a perceived value to human existence, their loss is still deemed acceptable.
  11. Why does the FWC exhibit bias against reptiles? No animal, insect or fauna species is more or less important than the other; rather, it is the balance of all species that creates a diverse natural environment. Therefore, protection of the resource should be equal and the treatment of invasives should be the same across the board.
  12. What actions has the FWC taken for businesses that were operating under their guidelines before the declaration of certain animals as illegal, despite having these animals in their possession before the regulations were implemented? Furthermore, what economic impact studies were carried out by the FWC prior to the implementation of these regulations?
  13. Why doesn’t the FWC choose to collaborate with stakeholders from different industries? This approach could be far more beneficial to the commission and the state in terms of elevating the standards of animal keeping while maintaining viable businesses. It would also help to eliminate incidents such as the Holy Thursday Massacre and reduce the fear that people have of interacting with the FWC.
  14. Public, who ultimately pays the salaries of the FWC, should be able to engage with the commission without fear of repercussions. However, the current situation is quite the opposite, which is unfortunate and a clear example of a department that has failed to meet expectations.
  15. Why are iguanas no longer permitted to be captured and sold out of state? This would be removing problem animals out of Florida therefore reducing the potential problem by these animals and benefitting the economy of Florida.
  16. It is noted on the site of the FWC that they state the Burmese Pythons should not be eaten due to possible high levels of mercury. This would not be something caused by the Burmese pythons and in my opinion industrialisation would be something to look at as a potential pollution source.


I have my doubts that a direct response will be given, although it would be appreciated. Nevertheless, I hope that the FWC will take into consideration the gravity of this appalling act and re-evaluate their legislation. It is imperative that their management structure undergoes a complete overhaul, and a rebranding of the FWC must be implemented. Officers should be trained to approach the public and maintain impartiality in all matters, treating everyone equally. It is not fair to solely target reptiles to avoid public outcry; objectivity should be exercised.




Ian Dewsbury

Aftermath of the Holy Thursday Massacre by FWC - Blood and other matter left on the floor
The aftermath of the FWC Holy Thursday Massacre – Photo by Chris Coffee