The awards ceremony for Florida’s 2016 Python Challenge was held today, in honor of participants who spent a month-long hunting spree in search of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades. This year, the concerted efforts of hunters-turned-competitors yielded an amazing 106 pythons captured between January 16 and February 14. This competition to capture pythons is not at all about hate or ill will toward the snakes. According to the official Python Challenge website, the purpose of the hunting competition is to educate the public about the Burmese pythons.
This particular type of python is not native to Florida, but hail from India, China, and the Malay Peninsula. Pythons are huge constrictor snakes that have the potential to grow as long as 26 feet, and in fact pose a real danger to the other wildlife living within the Everglades ecosystem. In an attempt to thin out the “invasive species” of python, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with its partners, hold the Python Challenge competition once a year.
This year, 106 pythons were captured and removed from the Everglades. The Python Challenge has had a lot of impact in raising awareness to the plight of the delicate Everglades ecosystem. The competition brings hunters and others with various outdoor interests together in the same cause. These people are accustomed to spending time out in the elements pursuing a hobby, but the hunt for Burmese pythons brings them together in one joint cause.
Wildlife commissioner Ron Bergeron says people from all walks of life participate in the capture of pythons every year, reports the Times Picayune.
“Whether they’re fishermen or they’re hunters or they’re hikers or they’re birdwatchers — they’re all looking for the python. The success of the ‘Python Challenge’ has broadened out to thousands of people now.”
One does not need to be a resident of Florida to join the race to capture pythons. This year, there were 1,000 participants from 29 states. In the end, though, the prize for longest python, a staggering 15 feet, went to a team from Sarasota, Florida.
— The Palm Beach Post (@pbpost) February 27, 2016
The following video shows excited participants during the python-capturing kick-off.
A related report from the Inquisitr from 2012 covers the planning of the first Python Challenge, which began in January of 2013. National Everglades Park spokesperson Linda Friar spoke on what they hope to accomplish with the python hunt.
“It’s very difficult to find these animals and we don’t really have a good strategy on how to contain this population. This is a pilot to see if it will gain public interest in areas that you can hunt so that they would be able to remove and capture these snakes.”
Carli Segelson, of the Florida Wildlife Commission, said they had high hopes for the success of the venture.
“We are hoping to gauge from the python challenge the effectiveness of using an incentive-based model as a tool to address this problem.”
— Panthers Fan Zone (@FloPanthers_FZ) February 18, 2016
While pythons can be hunted and captured during any open hunting season throughout the year with a valid hunting license as well as a management area permit, this competition to capture the pesky snakes spans only the time frame of one month.
Officials note that while capturing and removing pythons from the Everglades does mean the snakes need to be killed, there are rules in place to ensure the reptiles are treated in the most humanely way possible.
Though 106 pythons captured seems like an enormous amount, when we consider there could be “tens of thousands” of Burmese pythons living in that area, 106 is only a drop in the bucket.
Do you agree with capturing and killing the pythons to limit the population within the Everglades?
[Photo via Shutterstock]