Florida’s “Python Challenge”, which runs from August 5-14, will kill hundreds if not thousands of snakes, one expert said, but it will do little to dent the population of the invasive species.
Dale R. Jackson, a senior research zoologist at Florida State University, said, “The presence of invasive pythons in the Everglades has been ecologically devastating and needs to be addressed. Hunting helps, but it can reach the tip of the iceberg.” ” newsweek,
Burmese pythons are an invasive species in the Everglades. Native to Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons are believed to have exploded in population in the Americas in the late 1990s due to being brought in by the pet trade, and with no predators, their own eggs of up to 100 eggs. Due to the large clutches were multiplying rapidly. , They can potentially be up to 23 feet long.
The exact population of Burmese pythons in Florida is unknown, but the number is believed to be more than 100,000 in the state.
These pythons outnumber native wildlife for food, which has led to a decline in native mammal populations in the Everglades. However, they are still classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.
A 2012 study showed that since 1997, when python populations began to grow rapidly, raccoon numbers declined by 99.3 percent, opossums declined by 98.9 percent, along with cottontail rabbit populations. , and there was also a significant reduction in foxes. These animals are also regularly found inside the stomachs of captured Burmese pythons.
Wildlife control teams have found it difficult to capture pythons, with alternative methods of dog traps and biocontrol running out. Pythons can be legally humanely killed on private land at any time without the need for a permit or hunting license.
The Python Challenge was established in 2013 as an annual event to help promote the removal of Burmese pythons in Florida. The 10-day event sees participants slaying as many pythons as possible, with a cash prize for those who catch the largest and longest snakes.
“These pythons are a threat to the Everglades,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference announcing the 2022 Python Challenge. “Let’s reel in some pythons.”
In 2021, more than 600 people participated, with the winner of the $2,500 prize for the largest number of 223 pythons being taken home, and the catcher of the longest snake, a gargantuan 15 feet long, won the $1,500 prize. .
Snakes should be killed humanely. It is defined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a result of the python losing consciousness immediately, followed by the destruction of the python’s brain by ‘pitthing’. Participants must complete an online training course to enter the competition and are taught this method as part of it.
DeSantis said in a news release, “The Everglades is one of the world’s most prized natural resources, and we have invested record funding for Everglades restoration projects, including record funding for the removal of invasive Burmese pythons, which are ecologically vulnerable.” wreak havoc on the system.” “Because of this focus, we have removed a record number of invasive pythons from the Everglades. We are proud of our progress, and I look forward to seeing the results of this year’s Python Challenge.”
While humane killing of pythons is significant, the challenge rules clearly state that “if you are found to have killed a python inhumanely or if you have killed a native snake, you will be disqualified from the competition.” will be given.”
The Python Challenge suggests using either a penetrating captive bolt stunner or a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air gun to stun the python. The use of firearms is prohibited during the 2022 competition. After losing consciousness, the dragon’s brain is destroyed by inserting a hard metal instrument into the head cavity and rotating it to destroy the entire brain.
According to PETA, veterinary experts warn that “there is no humane way for the general public to try and destroy a snake’s brain in the field.”
Greeley Tribune has reached out to DeSantis for comment.