An handsome cash prize awaits any hunter in Florida who registers for the “Python Challenge” hunt – and ends up catching as many Burmese pythons as possible – dead or alive, starting this Saturday, the CNN reports.
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The objective is simple: Burmese pythons are quickly taking over the Everglades, and they need to be reared in fast before they wreak more havoc.
Burmese pythons are very large snakes that are sometimes be kept as pets or in zoos, feeding largely on raccoons and rabbits and opossums among other small animals. But they are now everywhere in Florida and starting to be a source of environmental concerns to state officials, and so need to be reduced to size.
A Burmese python can be up to 23 feet long and weigh as much as 200 pounds. Officials think they don’t belong in the Everglades or anywhere in this hemisphere at all.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission put out a call to hunters to sign up for a challenge where the invasive constrictors will be caught dead or alive to reduce their population in the state; and over 600 local hunters have already signed up for the Python Challenge hunt.
A cash prize awaits the hunter who catches the largest number of the large snakes dead or alive, and there are prizes for the hunter that catches the largest or longest snake as well.
The large snake is native to Southeast Asia, and Marcia McNutt, a director with the US Geological Survey disclosed that the snake species is damaging natural ecosystems in the US and upsetting things for other creatures at the Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million acre park.
"Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action," she had said in a report submitted in 2012.
The main problem that hunters will face is that detecting or catching the snakes is not easy, not in their natural habitat where they blend perfectly with their environment. In spite of their large size, the skin coloration of the creatures, and their hide-and-ambush behavior makes detecting them a great task, not to mention the fact that the dense low vegetation conceals them from searching eyes.
There was a similar Python Challenge in 2013, and the 1,600 hunters that went to work were only able to capture 68 Burmese pythons.
How the large snake species got into the US in the first place remains a mystery, but officials believe that those bred in captivity escaped in 1992 during a storm.
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"Burmese pythons escaped from a breeding facility that was destroyed during Hurricane Andrew," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted on its website. "It is also likely that pet pythons have been released in and around the Everglades."