Miami, FL - Python hunters are wanted in Florida for a hunting contest. Burmese pythons apparently have become a threat to the Florida ecosystem, so the state is looking to cull the python population by forming a public python hunting contest. According to CNN, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has announced the 2013 Python Challenge begins on January 12 of 2013 and ends at midnight on February 10.
"We are hoping to gauge from the python challenge the effectiveness of using an incentive-based model as a tool to address this problem," says Florida Wildlife Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson.
The Python Challenge has laid out four specific areas where the snakes can be harvested, and the park is off-limits to the general public. A grand prize of $1,500 will be awarded to the highest number of Python kills, and $1,000 will go to the person who bags the longest one. According to the rules, road kill is not acceptable as an entry.
Python hunters will pay a $25 registration fee and must complete an online safety training course for hunting pythons.
"It's very difficult to find these animals and we don't really have a good strategy on how to contain this population," said Linda Friar, spokeswoman for Everglades National Park, who believes there are "tens of thousands" of Burmese pythons living in the Everglades. "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."
Animal right activists may complain that reducing the python population means killing the snakes instead of relocating them.
"We want to make sure this is done in a humane way," Segelson said. The Python Challenge website lists several ways to kill a python "in a humane manner that results in immediate loss of consciousness and destruction of the brain." They suggest shooting the snake in the head with a firearm or decapitating it with a machete.
The 2013 Python Challenge is not only about killing snakes.
"One of things that is very important to us is to educate the public about the Burmese python and how this species is impacting the state of Florida," Segelson said. "We're hoping to inform people ... if they do have exotic pets that they understand the importance of not releasing them into the wild."
What do you think about the 2013 Python Challenge? Should Python hunters be unleashed on the Florida Everglades, or should a different approach be considered?