Trying to Control Population, Burmese Python Hunters Wanted in Florida

Thursday, 13 Dec 2012 07:35 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Attempting to control an ever-expanding population of Burmese pythons, Florida is issuing special temporary permits to snake hunters and offering cash prizes for the most pythons killed or captured and the longest python.

The pilot program to capture and kill the species invading the Everglades begins Jan. 12. Whoever kills or captures the most in 30 days gets a $1,500 grand prize, while the person who gets the longest one will receive $1,000.

Before you rush to apply for a permit, consider that the longest python recorded captured in the Everglades weighed a whopping 164 pounds and was nearly 18 feet long, according to the University of Florida. The massive snake was carrying 87 eggs at the time of her capture, giving an idea of why there are so many.

The python hunt is being promoted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which will be responsible for doling out the prize money next year. Participants must pay a $25 registration fee and kill or capture the reptiles in a humane manner.

Florida’s Burmese python population, which some experts estimate to be in the hundreds of thousands, has devastated Florida’s ecosystem since being introduced there in 1979.

The python is just one of some 500-plus invasive species that have been introduced to the Sunshine State since the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. There are more invasive animal species in Florida than anywhere else in the world, according to the United States Geological Survey.

In addition to the python, one of Florida’s more dangerous new predators is the Nile Crocodile – not to be confused with the state’s saltwater crocs – which is responsible for hundreds of attacks on people each year.

“Either someone is breeding and releasing them or they’re escaping. We simply don’t know,” said Wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski in Florida’s news-press.com.

Humans aren’t the only ones at risk from the predatory species. According to published reports, raccoon and possum sightings have decreased by 99 percent in recent decades. Also, migrating “snow birds” might have a rude awakening when they run across an unfamiliar predatory species new to their habitat.

Many non-native species that have made Florida’s warm habitat their home in recent decades were originally pets that were released into the wild by irresponsible residents.

According to the USGS, more than $100 billion in damage is caused annually to the U.S. economy by the nation’s more than 6,500 harmful non-native species.

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