Florida Responds to Growing Python Problem

When people think of hunting, they might picture deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, or ducks. But in Florida, some people hunt snakes!

For years, wholesalers in Florida have imported thousands of pythons and sold them to pet stores across the U.S. Of these snakes, the Burmese python is among the most popular. Found in South and Southeast Asia, these pythons grow up to 20 feet long and can lay up to 100 eggs at a time. Unfortunately, these snakes are also good at escaping. Consequently, this invasive species makes up a disturbingly large portion of Florida's ecosystem.

To combat this increasing problem, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission introduced a Burmese python hunting tournament in January of 2013 called the 2013 Python Challenge. A cash reward was announced for the hunter who could kill and bring in the most pythons. About 1600 contestants from 38 states competed in the tournament. Participants in the Python Challenge contest were allowed to use special weapons including firearms, bolt guns, and machetes. Bolt guns are commonly used to stun animals before slaughtering them.

At the end of the month-long contest, snake hunter Ruben Ramirez, captain of the Florida Python Hunters, caught the most Burmese pythons. Capturing an amazing 18 pythons during the competition, Ramirez and his group wanted to keep the Burmese pythons alive. However, this would have led to their disqualification so they shot them with a pellet gun, the mildest of weapons still capable of killing. Pellet gun shoots a variety of projectiles using only compressed air or gas. One of his team members, Brian Christy, said “it was like shooting my own dog.”

[Source: National Geographic]