In case you’ve been wondering if there is anything exciting and/or controversial going on in Florida that might also be worthy of being made fun of, wonder no more. On Saturday, January 12, Florida kicked off a real nail-biter of a challenge. It is being covered by the news, but not nearly enough for me; so I thought I’d better make sure that you aren’t missing out on this huge story.
You may or may not know that Florida has a problem with many invasive, non-native species. Lionfish, Muscovy ducks, Cuban tree frogs, and Hulk Hogan are a few of our more popular ones. But none, not even Hulk Hogan, can cause the stir that the Burmese Pythons are creating in the Everglades right now. In layman’s terms, the snakes are eating everything in sight. They are putting the squeeze on our native mammals, birds and reptiles. They are wreaking havoc on our ecosystem.
Therefore, in the true, Florida spirit that spits in the eye of every pesky mosquito and reptile around, 2013 Python Challenge is under way. The competition will conclude on February 10 at 11:59 PM. The idea is to eliminate (kill) as many pythons as possible. (This is the controversial part. PETA is up in arms about this. Oops, maybe my wording should be changed because I don’t know if PETA actually gets up in arms, but you get the picture.)
Anyway, there is a prize for the highest number harvested (killed) and a prize for the largest one harvested (killed), too. Anyone 18 or over that has an extra $25 can enter. And 16 and 17 year-olds are welcome when accompanied by a registered parent. So, what are you waiting for? Head on down to The Everglades; grab your machete, guns and Off! and come on.
Yes, for a mere $25 you can have the time of your life, assuming you don’t:
- Get strangled by a python
- Have an alligator attack you
- Get bitten by a water moccasin or any of the other venomous snakes that inhabit the area
- Become overwhelmed with a heat stroke
- Contract any of the following mosquito borne diseases:
- West Nile Virus
- Dengue Fever
We really have it all down here. And, talk about a deal – that price is approximately the same as two days of parking at any of the major theme parks. You are probably starting to plan your trip right now and no doubt asking yourself, what can I use to harvest (kill) those big boys?
Here is where the real bang for your buck kicks in, you can use a gun. Warning, they insist there is an ethical obligation to kill these snakes in a humane manner. So, play nice. Nice means shooting the snake in the head is fine. Specifically that means you must be careful “to use a safe but effective caliber and making sure that you destroy the snake’s brain.” (This is quoted from http://www.pythonchallenge.org/toolkit/euthanasia.aspx where you can get all the info you need for your outing.)
The trickiest part of shooting the snake is finding the correct spot to target. They instruct the hunter to make an imaginary line from the rear of the head on the left side to the right eye and then do the same on the opposite side of the head. The point of intersection is the target. I can only imagine myself finding a snake and trying to draw those lines in my head before I blow the thing to smithereens. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not out there. Figuring out how to follow the hunt on twitter was challenge enough for me.
They are also on board with using a machete to decapitate the snake, though you can tell they aren’t quite as happy about that, what with the chance that a clean cut may not be made and the ravenous, invading snake that has so compromised our state’s ecosystem might not be killed with one fell swoop. Not to mention the fact that if you chop the snake up into more than two pieces, it will not be eligible for the longest snake award. I’m not making that up; it’s in the official rules.
Your next question is likely, who came up with this plan to send seasoned hunters and novices alike into the wild to grub for twelve-foot reptiles? It’s the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners. These guys love an opportunity to have dozens of armed people descend on the Everglades for an old-fashioned snake hunt. I think it’s a great idea, too, though I will not participate due to the fact that I am really pretty wimpy and don’t like to sweat, be strangled by snakes, or attacked by alligators. If I want to be bitten by a mosquito, I don’t have to go all the way down there for that.
I was wondering who can afford to take an entire month off of work to play hide and seek with pythons with only an off-chance that they may win a whopping $1500 prize. But I discovered that many of those registered are not out there every day; and hey, unemployment is still pretty rough down here, so if time is not a problem, why not go for it. (See my list of five good reasons above.)
And if you’re thinking about stacking the deck by planting a python or two for you to “harvest,” think again. That’s a no-no. According to the official rules, harvesting a python that was formerly a pet gets you disqualified. That rule is a bit ambiguous to me because the python problem is largely a result of people letting their pet pythons go in the wild when they became too much for them to handle. Yes, all kittens, puppies and baby snakes are adorable (not!), but they do grow up. Think, people, before you purchase that exotic animal! Talk about buyer’s remorse!
As of this writing the count of pythons stands at eleven, but it’s early. Every Friday and Tuesday the official website will be updated. You can click http://pythonchallenge.org/ to keep up with it.