A Florida shop owner is selling face masks crafted from Burmese python skin to customers looking to make a “fashion statement” while limiting the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator Products in Dania Beach, Florida, has designed masks made of different leather—including python skin, lizard skin and alligator skin, which he describes as “the diamond of leathers” to the Miami Herald.
“People are going to have to cover their faces, and unfortunately the situation may last longer than we imagined,” Wood told the paper. “Some people want to make a fashion statement even during this pandemic, so I want to give them options.”
The leather masks do not provide protection in and of themselves, but Wood said there is a space for a filter or lining that can.
He explained he wants to take advantage of the state’s supply of skin from pythons, alligators and crocodiles, saying a 10-foot snake could provide enough skin for 10 masks.
“People are telling me they want to buy 5, 12 of these masks, so I’ll definitely be buying snakes from local hunters,” said Wood.
In Florida, hunters are permitted to kill Burmese pythons on private land with the landowner’s permission—in fact, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages it, provided it is done humanely and without the use of traps and firearms.
The reason for this is that Burmese pythons are an invasive species native to South Asia. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the snake was introduced to the U.S. via the exotic pet trade. It is now spread across more than a thousand square miles of South Florida, competing with native species for food. Some of the largest drops in Florida fauna have taken place in areas where the Burmese python has the longest presence.