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You, too, can help rid Florida of the invasive Burmese python

The largest Burmese python discovered in Florida was humanely euthansized by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to conduct research on the invasive species in Naples, June 22, 2022.
Hayley Lemery
The largest Burmese python discovered in Florida was humanely euthansized by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to conduct research on the invasive species in Naples, June 22, 2022.

Let’s say that, for fun, you wanted to go into alligator-infested area, hip-deep in water where you can’t see the bottom, standing in mushy marl, in the middle of the night, and try to capture a huge snake that in turn may want to capture you. Then, the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “2022 Florida Python Challenge®” is for you.

The challenge might be the only event, ever, to encourage members of the general public to take an online class and then go deep into the Florida Everglades to “compete to win thousands of dollars in prizes while removing invasive Burmese pythons from the wild.”

And it appears people cannot get enough of python hunting. More than 600 people from 25 states registered to take part in the ten-day competition last year. Hunters both amateur and professional caught 223 Burmese pythons from the Everglades, double the number of snakes from the contest two years ago.

Burmese pythons rank high in the threat level to the fragile Everglades ecosystem. The snakes eat bird eggs, small animals like rabbits and other snakes, larger species like deer, and even smaller alligators. They have not been proven to have killed a human in America yet but bodies have been found inside Burmese pythons in Asia.

The animals range from hatchlings to more than 26 feet with a weight over 200 pounds. Their extensive diet is upsetting the Everglades’ delicate natural balance. Because of the vast area in which the snakes can hide scientists don't know exactly how many live in the Everglades, but estimates point to around 200,000.

So, is the python contest, which removed 223 snakes at its best, really about snake removal or public awareness of the massive carnivore? Some say both.

“I believe the python challenge is effective in removing pythons,” said Donna Kalil, who last year won for catching the most pythons of any other professional hunter in the competition. “And in creating public awareness as to the python problem we have here in South Florida.”

To get in on the hunt from August 5-14, go to FLPythonChallenge.org to register, take the online training, and learn more about Burmese pythons and their impact on the unique Everglades ecosystem.

More than 16,000 Burmese pythons have been removed since 2000, most by professionals who are paid hourly but then more for every foot of python they kill.,

Eliminating a female python seems like a good place to start since they can lay more than 100 eggs at a time.

“The Florida Everglades is an iconic habitat in Florida and removing Burmese pythons from this ecosystem is critical to the survival of the species that live in this vast wild area,” said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “The FWC and our dedicated partners continue to have great success conserving our native wildlife and managing this invasive predator.”

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

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