The Great Python Challenge
What happens when you have Burmese pythons on the loose in a new habitat? And the species is growing rapidly and devouring local animals. You call in citizen python hunters!
In a challenge sponsored by the Wildlife Commission of Florida, nearly 1,600 people signed up to explore, search and eradicate Burmese pythons that have made Florida's Everglades National Park their new home. In the month-long challenge, 68 of the estimated 100,000 Burmese pythons have been caught.
The Brave Snake Catchers
Most of the people who registered for the hunt were amateurs lacking the permits usually required to capture pythons. Ruben Ramirez of Miami bagged the prize for harvesting the most snakes and took home $1500 for his effort.
While 68 may sound like a small number, experts believe it is a cause for celebration. Female pythons can lay as many as 100 eggs at a time. The hunt would have prevented thousands of pythons from being born!
The largest snake along with two others were fitted with a pair of transmitters and released back into the wild. Wildlife experts expect these python to show them where thousands of other snakes might be hiding out in the wild and maybe even lead them to the breeding females.
An Invasive Problem
More than actually eradicating the snakes, the purpose of the challenge was to create awareness about the threat pythons and other invasive species pose to the native wildlife.
In recent years, snakes from around the world have been turning up in the wild in south Florida. Unable to keep them as pets at home, owners have let their pet snakes loose in the wild where they have been breeding and growing in numbers. Experts believe that is how the Burmese python was introduced to the Everglades.
Burmese pythons are one of the largest snake species on earth. Capable of growing up to 20 feet in length, they can swallow deer and antelopes in whole. These pythons are not native to the Florida habitat. With no natural predators and being on top of the food chain, the enormous reptiles have been devouring native wildlife at a pace that has endangered many species.
Since 2002, park authorities have removed nearly 1800 pythons. Experts also worry about the problem of hybrid super snakes because of the mating of Burmese and African pythons. These could turn out to be hardier, more vicious and more powerful. Native alligators, other mammals and birds would hardly stand a chance against these super predators.
Courtesy: NPS, CNN