300 registered for python challenge

FWC offers cash reward to winners

By Jacey Birch - Anchor/Animal Advocate

FLORIDA EVERGLADES - More than 300 people are registered to take part in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "2013 Python Challenge."

"I think the likelihood that we will ever be able to eliminate every single python from the Everglades is slim to none," said George Pino with the FWC.

Beginning on Jan. 12, the public and python permit holders will compete to see who can harvest the longest and most Burmese pythons. The contest ends Feb. 10.

"If we have five or six biologists out there looking for pythons as opposed to maybe 100 people looking for pythons, it's going to make a difference," said Pino. "We suggest that you shoot the python and shoot the python in the head."

The FWC will hand out $1,500 to the hunter who harvests the most Burmese pythons and $1,000 to the hunter who catches the longest snake. So far, the largest Burmese python documented in Florida was more than 17-feet in length.

"We're also interested in learning a lot about where they were found, what they had in their stomachs, so we can try to put a clearer picture of what they're doing out there," added Pino.

Participants must pay a $25 registration fee and complete an online training course which focuses on hunting pythons.

For every one snake found in the Everglades, it's estimated that there are at least nine more. It's believed there are between 5,500 and 130,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades, according to the Everglades National Park.

Since hunting began twelve years ago, only 1,825 have been removed. The challenge takes place in the winter because, Pino said, the pythons come out to sun themselves, making them more visible to hunters and trappers.

Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species.

Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.