While working as a contributor to this publication, I wrote about Florida’s decision to put up a couple grand to see if they could coax a ton of folks into the swamp to kill invasive Burmese Pythons ($1500 for killing the most, and $1000 for killing the biggest). To recap, Floridian snake lovers bought non-native Burmese Pythons over the course of several years and then lost or willfully set them loose in the wild, where they proceeded to breed like rabbits… if rabbits were capable of pumping out 80 offspring at once.
And now the contest is over. So how did it go? Well, experts estimate there are about 150,000 Burmese Pythons in the Florida swamps, 1,567 people applied to take part in the hunt, and over the last month, they managed to kill….
So what happened? Well, in addition to this being a pretty dumb idea from the get go, there are a few thoughts:
For one, the average temperature during the Python Challenge approached 80 degrees, and snakes didn’t need to find sunlight out in the open, experts said. But more important, hunting snakes isn’t like hunting buffalo on the plain.
“Everybody thought they were going to come out here and be stumbling across pythons,” said [hunt participant Ruben] Ramirez, who claims he has hunted every day but three. He didn’t deny a rumor that he’s probably winning the contest, but he wouldn’t say how many pythons have died by his hand.
“A lot of people got frustrated real quick,” he said. “Two, three days in the blazing sun. The guys who kept at it were walking 20 miles a day. It’s not a walk in the park. I’ve lost, like, 20 pounds from before it started. My pants are falling down.”
So apparently the contest was only successful as a weight-loss regimen for Ramirez. Those conditions certainly sound miserable.
As that quote suggests, Ramirez is rumored to be the winner of the competition, though the official announcement won’t be made until February 16.
In addition to failing to bag a lot of snakes, the contest had other problems:
There have been rumors of cheating, drunkenness and target practice against native animals, including at least one turtle, say reptile enthusiasts. One hunter said he declined offers from two friends to give him pythons to turn in for the contest. Segelson said she hasn’t seen evidence of any of this.
Who’d have thought giving inexperienced people a license to kill in a dense swamp would lead to drunks killing native animals? If you answered, “everybody,” you’re right.
One of the original python hunters in Florida, Shawn Heflick, made me wonder if the Florida Wildlife Commission is eyeing a new competition:
“You’ve got individuals who clearly benefit from the idea of there being a huge number of pythons out there,” he said, adding that it’s distracting from other, more serious, problems – like feral cats.
Homeless felines kill billions of native songbirds and rodents. The FWC acknowledges this on its website and includes a picture of an adorable housecat. Its picture of the Burmese python has a target on its head.
So I have a suggestion for the FWC’s next hunter. Paging Gordon Shumway.
Florida Python Hunt Ending In Failure [The Telegraph]
Florida Python Hunt Yielding Relatively Few Snakes [Phys.org]