Let other states hunt for Bambi’s mom… in Florida we hunt PYTHONS! Approximately 700 hunters from 32 states and Canada have registered for the 30-day hunt. They are competing for prizes including $1,500 to the person who bags the most pythons and $1,000 to whomever catches the longest snake. Senator Bill Nelson opened the season last week before rushing off for the presidential inauguration… still in his hunting cap! He didn’t catch anything. But you might! Whoever brings in the longest python will get a $1,000 prize. The person to catch the most pythons will receive a $1,500 reward.
In all seriousness, central Florida does have more traditional types of hunting, and the Python Challenge is not a *real* hunting season. It was conceived as a way to raise awareness about this invasive species’ threat to our native wildlife and our fragile Everglades ecosytem. The snakes, which grow to around 15 feet and can weigh more than 200 pounds, have no natural predators in Florida. The pythons are known to eat our protected Key Deer, alligators, endangered wood storks – whatever they can catch. And they are voracious eaters according to The Nature Conservancy, eating nearly 200 pounds of food in five years. The Nature Conservancy’s “Python Patrol” estimates that our Everglades may be infested with up to 100,000 of these snakes. Researchers are hoping the Python Challenge will help them collect more information about the pythons’ habits.
In a recent USA Today article, Andres Schabelman was asked “whether he was coming to Florida to kill big snakes or for conservation reasons, Schabelman said: “There’s definitely a hunter side in all of us, but it’s mostly about conservation. I think there’s a myth out there that these two don’t go together. But that’s not always the case.””
I agree Andres. So if you would like to satisfy the hunter and the treehugger inside you, come on out to the Florida Everglades for the 2013 Python Challenge. But hurry – the contest ends February 10th.