Florida’s New Contest: Kill Pythons, Win Money

Florida plans to solve its python problem by soliciting civilians to take part in a hunting contest.

Burmese pythons hunted in Florida Everglades
Burmese pythons like this one aren't venemous, but with the capability to grow upwards of 200 pounds, their strength makes them difficult to subdue. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Need to make some cash? Want to kill 20-foot snakes? Then Florida has a challenge for you.

The state’s Everglades National Park is so overrun with Burmese pythons that it's inviting people to come kill them for money.

The “2013 Python Challenge” will kick off this January. The general public is eligible to participate in the contest to see who can kill the most pythons in a single month. What can entrants win?  Bragging rights, the swagger that comes with conquering jungle behemoths, and a shot at $1,500.

The proliferation of Burmese pythons in Florida is a serious issue—serious enough that its Everglades ecosystem is being destroyed by the snakes, which multiply so vigorously that restricting their numbers has become a logistical impossibility. The largest python ever captured in the Florida wild not only measured over 17 feet in length, but was found to be carrying 87 eggs inside her.

MORE: Florida's Largest Wild Burmese Python Recaptured and Euthanized

The snakes originally found their way to Florida as exotic pets, but either escaped from their owners or were purposely set free once they grew too large. Now that they’re entrenched in the Everglades, they're eating the area to death, decreasing some animal populations by as much as 99 percent according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Animals like raccoons and opossums are regularly found still intact inside the bellies of captured pythons, which have also been known to devour whole alligators and deer. 

Solving the problem, or at least making a dent in it, with a hunting contest may be an unorthodox approach, but as Linda Friar of the Everglades National Park told CNN, that might be exactly what’s needed. "It's very difficult to find these animals and we don't really have a good strategy on how to contain this population. This is a pilot to see if it will gain public interest in areas that you can hunt so that they would be able to remove and capture these snakes."

If encouraging the public to brandish firearms and machetes in order to hunt 200-pound snakes sounds dicey, well, it is. Participants who sign up for the challenge will receive a temporary hunting permit, an online tutorial in safety training and instruction on how to kill their prey humanely.

And though it's unusual, it’s not the first creative attempt at subduing invasive species populations. Restaurants like Miya’s in Connecticut or Alewife in Baltimore serve invasive wildlife for exactly that purpose. Even at last year’s National Geographic Gala, there was an invasive species sushi bar. These tactics are part of a growing trend in sustainability to balance out species' populations.

Whether or not the python contest will be effective in doing the same remains to be seen. But underneath the reasons for the contest lies a great sense of injustice; these snakes arrived in Florida by human hand for selfish reasons. We exploited them and now they’re going to have to pay for it.

Will you sign up for the 2013 Python Challenge? Let us know in the Comments.

• Grabbing The Snake By The Head (Video)

A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer.  In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com

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