What is my favorite snake? The one the hawk just carried off.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for any length of time, you know that I am not a fan of sweating, physical exertion, dirt or being attacked by reptiles. All of those things disqualified me from any thought of participating in Florida’s 2013 Python Challenge, but they don’t lessen my fascination with people who throw caution, comfort and sanity to the wind to get down and dirty in their quest to achieve their goals (even if said goals are, well, crazy).
Last month I introduced you to the Challenge (see Florida is Being Invaded, The Squeeze is On), so I thought it only proper to bring you the results. You can click on http://www.pythonchallenge.org/ for more of the story, but I’ll highlight a few facts for you.
Number of pythons harvested: 68
Longest python: 14’ 3”
Most harvested by one participant: 18
Number of registrants: nearly 1600
Average number of snakes harvested per participant: 0.0425 (this is provided by me as the FWC did not go to the trouble or embarrassment of calculating this vital statistic – also, as with all mathematical references in my blog, the answer was verified by my personal IT and math guy, my husband Bob)
At this point, you are likely asking yourself two questions.
Number one – With only 0.0425 snakes caught by each of those participants, how did they manage to piece together 68 snakes?
Number two – How happy is the FWC with only a handful (they have very large hands) of snakes removed from the Everglades?
I’ll ignore the first question and go right to question number two. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is pleased as punch with the information gathered through this challenge and isn’t complaining (out loud) about the teeny-tiny number of pythons wrangled. Also, since a female can lay 50-100 eggs, the FWC can be assumed to be hopeful that the majority of those snakes harvested were girls. This may beg the question, how do you determine the gender of a snake? My answer, I don’t.
Meanwhile, back here in Orlando, I have had my own reptilian encounter, which you will no doubt agree parallels the thrill and adventure of those in the Python Challenge.
It was a typical balmy February day. I opened my front door to head to the mailbox and came face to face with a terrifying spectacle – no, it was not girl scouts selling those irresistible thin mint cookies; it was a black racer. “Oh, a friendly snake! How nice that it’s laying on my front step,” I thought to myself, but what came out of my mouth was, “Aaaahhhhh!” as I quickly retreated into the house and slammed the door.
I gathered my composure and my cell phone and headed out the side door to assess the situation. I gave the snake a wide berth as I circled my yard and ambled toward my front door. There he was, waiting for me. Now, all I ask of the wildlife in my yard (except for birds and bears, of course) is that they be more afraid of me than I am of them, and he wasn’t cooperating. We had a face off. I stared. He stared. I took a step closer. He didn’t budge. In fact, he seemed to be posing for photos.
I did the only thing I could do – I threw a stick at him. I didn’t want to hurt him, but clearly I needed to make sure he knew who was boss (he did – it was him). I’m a terrible throw and clearly he was not intimidated. I gathered my courage, took one more step in his direction, and heaved a piece of cypress mulch at him. It landed perfectly – leaning against his slender body, which was still on my front step. He looked at me and stuck out his tongue. I stuck out my tongue. It was going to be a long afternoon.
Thankfully, a person standing in the middle of her yard staring at her front door for 15 minutes does attract a certain amount of attention. My neighbor, John, came to my rescue wielding a round point shovel and an attitude worthy of hunting down even a Burmese python. The snake took off and was gone in a flash. Gone but not forgotten. It’s been a week now and I still have a feeling he’s out there ready to taunt me again. That’s why if you come to my front door, please don’t disturb the shovel I have propped up against the wall there. It’s cheap insurance against a wily old snake.