Snakes in Florida, it's expected. But, several years ago, Florida officials realized they had a big problem with non-native Burmese Pythons. People who kept them as pets would release them when they got too big, and some growers in the 70s and 80s used them to protect their orange groves from pests. Officials also think that many were released in the hurricanes of the 90s. The news got worse when they found out that it wasn't just the Burmese Pythons they were dealing with, but also the very deadly African Rock Python. They have interbred in captivity and could easily do the same in Florida and be human killers. After a Python killed a toddler, they made a 'Python Posse' to try to curb the danger to people and wildlife. However, they haven't been very successful.
What to do? Have a contest! It sounds crazy...and stupid, but they're actually doing it. The 'Python Challenge' is the brain child of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. For a $25 entrance fee, you get 30 minutes of training (yikes) on the Python Challenge website. You'll learn the best way to kill a Burmese Python is to chop off their head with a machete or shoot it and other helpful snake hunting and slaying techniques. They might want to pay close attention to the rules, in the Summer, researchers captured and euthanized a 17-foot-long, 164lb. Python carrying 90 eggs! If any 'lucky' slayers and find any Pythons close in size, they can win up to $1500. Hunters must bring their capture to a drop-off sites within 24 hours and after they enter research notes, the hunter can keep the deceased reptile. If it's large enough, a company that specializes in alligator skin clothing, accessories and furniture will buy them.
Researchers believe there are 'tens of thousands' of Pythons living just in the National Everglades Park in just an 8,000-square-kilometer region of southern Florida, and in other areas throughout the U.S. But, the Everglades have become prime breeding and feeding ground, so much so that the local wildlife is dwindling...fast. In one incident in late 2011, a 16-foot long Burmese Python was captured and killed in the Everglades after eating a 76-pound adult female deer. The news must have chilled parents all over the area. Snakes are so common in Florida they're hard to avoid, but knowing there are Pythons that large and that some may have an appetite for humans is terrifying! The truth is that Pythons are usually intimidated by adult humans because of their size, however they can kill some adults and easily kill a child. They kill by squeezing their prey, then swallowing it. The contest starts on January 12th.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Â© Margie Wilson-Mars 2013