Florida’s wildlife agency has “released” artificial snakes throughout the state, and is asking residents to help find them.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Python Challenge, which kicked off on Tuesday, is Photoshopping colorful toy snakes into notable landmarks, in order to highlight the state’s struggle against the invasive Burmese python.
Visitors to the FWC’s Facebook page guess from a picture where a toy snake has been placed. The first responder to correctly identify the location receives merchandise with the Python Challenge logo, including a toy snake like the one they saw in the picture, and is placed in a drawing for a $100 Bass Pro Shops gift card.
Since the first pythons were mistakenly introduced to South Florida in the 1980s, they have become of the state’s most troublesome invasive species, and have proven difficult to eliminate. Burmese pythons outcompete native wildlife in the Everglades and can even threaten pets and humans.
The government has encouraged hunters to target the pythons, regularly placing a bounty on the snake’s heads, but as of yet they’ve yet to make a dent in the python’s numbers.
The next competition to eliminate actual South Florida pythons will begin Jan. 16 and end on Feb. 14, and officials hope residents keeping an eye out for the fake snakes will also encourage them to help hunt down the real thing in the new year.
Residents are also asked to report pythons by calling the FWC’s Invasive Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), or reporting their sighting one IveGot1.org or using the IveGot1 smartphone app.