More than 100,000 Burmese python call the Florida Everglades home. The Python Challenge hopes to put a dent in that number – one dead snake at a time.
The Python Challenge – an organized month-long open season on Florida’s Burmese python – wrapped up on February 14. The event, which attracted 600 hunters, is open to all people who register with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Originating from Southeast Asia, the Burmese python was first spotted in the Everglades in the 1980’s. Since then, this invasive species has put a stranglehold on the area, with numbers estimated at more than 100,000. Since pythons have no natural predators, scientists fear that the native wildlife is at risk, including such animals as racoons, rabbits, foxes, and even the panther.
Challenge participants vied for $16,000 in prize money in various categories. Of the 106 snakes killed, a team led by Bill Booth claimed the $5,000 grand prize for killing 33 pythons. The team also took home another $3,000 for killing the longest snake – a beast that measured 15 feet and weighed nearly 125 pounds.
“This is the hardest thing that anybody’s going to hunt,” python pursuer Dusty Crum told NBC News. “It’s a 2-foot needle in a 100 million-acre haystack.”
The snakes can grow up to 26 feet and weigh a massive 200 pounds. They are also capable of laying 100 eggs at a time.