Beginning on January 12, Authorities in Florida will be hosting a “Python Challenge” in an attempt to reduce the Burmese Python population that plagues the state. In addition to reducing the ever growing numbers of the invasive species, it is hoped that the event will educate the public.
The event will utilize the public in an incentive-based challenge, offering a variety of rewards for the capture of one or more Burmese Pythons. Prizes include $1,500 for the most Burmese Pythons captured and $1,000 for the longest Burmese Python captured. Additionally all participant’s names will be added to a random drawing for an unspecified third prize.
Registration for the event is $25. Participants are required to attend an online training session. Anyone under the age of 18 is required to obtain a hunting permit. When and if a snake is captured, it must be surrendered to a drop-off location within 24 hours, as stated on pythonchallenge.org. Although the event is an effort to reduce the population, organizers want to be able to document and collect data about the snakes captured as well.
Burmese Pythons are a growing problem in Florida. The snakes are not indigenous to the state. Irresponsible pet owners have introduced the pythons to the environment with no regard for the consequences. According to a report by Fox News, the neglectful pet owners have made a devastating impact on the state’s ecosystem:
“Experts believe there could be tens of thousands of the giant snakes living in an 8,000-square-kilometer region of southern Florida. The voracious predators have devastated the native species like deer, bobcats and raccoons.”
While the snakes are not usually a danger to humans, as they tend to be reclusive, they do have the capability to kill and consume a child. Bigger Pythons could actually kill an adult.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to patrol the parks more heavily during the month-long challenge to ensure the safety of participants, and to make sure the rules of the contest are being followed.
Nearly 400 people have already registered for the Python Challenge and started training.