Not only does the park benefit, he says, but the Apes do, too. There’s a body of evidence, including a 2013 study published in the journal "Military Medicine," that suggests time spent in the wild helps victims of PTSD surmount their trauma. Further, hunting pythons gives back to vets something that Rahill says many crave: a mission, a sense of purpose. “These are men who were told to defend the U.S. against all enemies,” he says. “When they get back home, a need for a mission is still ingrained in them, but they don’t have one.”
In the Apes, he says, they recapture their sense of purpose. “When one of them tells me, ‘I don’t have nightmares any more, Tom,’ I get tears in my eyes,” says Rahill.
Asked if he or any of his men get paid, Rahill says no. All are unpaid volunteers, Friar confirms. The Apes’ expenses now run about $20,000 a year for equipment, gasoline and other necessities, says Rahill: “It’s all out-of-pocket for me. It’s grown to a point where I can’t afford it.”
He’s in the course of getting the Apes registered as a 5013c, so they can accept charitable donations.
What becomes of the pythons? Friar says that snakes captured in the park cannot be removed from the park; agents must turn all of them over to park wildlife biologists, who then euthanize them, perform necropsies and dispose of the remains.