Florida Python Hunt: 21 Burmese Pythons Caught so Far in 2013 Challenge
Last Saturday, the one month long Python challenge 2013 started in the Florida Everglades.
Close to eight hundred people from almost thirty states signed up for the event. According to the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, twenty-one pythons were killed. The object of the contest is to catch and kill Burmese pythons. Eleven of those snakes were caught in the first three days of the contest.
FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright at the kickoff news conference said, "The FWC is pleased that so many people are joining this earnest effort to limit the impact of this invasive species on Florida’s diverse native wildlife. Floridians and people from all across the United States truly care about the Florida Everglades, and they are clearly eager to help us better understand and solve this problem."
Those 21 python's caught have now been bagged and some turned into actual bags, belts, shoes and even pants.
This is the first of its kind competition, hunters wrangling Burmese pythons with Floridians benefiting along with the winner of the challenge.
Brian Wood is a co-owner of Exotic Leather Fashions in Hollywood, Florida and he said the Python Challenge is the perfect opportunity for his company. In an interview with local station WPLG, Wood said, "The snakes have become a problem because they're invasive. It just seemed natural for us to go ahead and start buying the snakes from the hunters and utilizing them in our fashions."
Here's how the Python Challenge works: Once hunters kill a python, they turn it over to officials at designated check stations where researchers gather biological information in the hopes of learning how to better combat the quickly reproducing snakes.
"When they harvest snakes, Python Challenge™ competitors will be collecting valuable data that will contribute to the current Burmese python research and management efforts of the FWC and its partners," Wright said. "We are grateful to Python Challenge™ participants, sponsors and partners for helping make this event happen."
Hunters may then retrieve their snake and take it on over to Exotic Leather Goods where Brian Wood is paying premium prices for pythons, up to $150 each.
The Python Challenge 2013 is to raise awareness about non-native species and the effects on the local ecosystem. While it's unknown how many pythons live in the Florida Everglades, about 2,050 pythons have been harvested in Florida since 2000.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Spokeswoman Carli Segelson says the Python Challenge is about invasive species education as much as it is a competition. "One thing I think that is an important point for us to make is for people to understand really the negative impacts that can be had when you release nonnative species into the wild. This can be very detrimental to Florida’s nature ecosystem and native wildlife."
Florida law prohibits possession or sale of the pythons for use as pets and they may only be legally transported if dead.
The grand prize for whoever catches the longest Burmese python is $1000 and for whoever catches the most snakes is $500 bigger. The rules say that with every snake that was caught the hunter must also specify its size and send out his/her GPS location so that contest officials can track where the snake was found.
The Python Challenge runs through February 10, 2013.