Select hunters have been given permits in Florida to hunt and kill non-native pythons in the wild.
Experts say the alien constrictors number in the tens of thousands in Everglades National Park, and they are wiping out native endangered species. An official with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the hunt is just the beginning of a much larger eradication program.
The most invasive snake species are the massive Burmese pythons, which can grow to as long as 30 feet and weigh as much as 400 pounds. Although they are native to Southeast Asia, they survive easily in the moist climate of southern Florida. Because of their large size, they are capable of squeezing and swallowing animals as large as birds, pigs, goats, alligators, and they can even pose a threat to human children.
Python numbers have reached critical mass in Florida over the last decade, and some estimates suggest there may be as many as 150,000 slithering about. Burmese pythons are popular snakes to keep as pets, and their population has likely spiked due to irresponsible pet owners releasing their snakes into the wild after they get too big. Large numbers of pet pythons also probably escaped after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
According to biologist David Halleck, from National Geographic: “This is a serious problem, and as you know the Everglades has a number of threatened and endangered species, federally listed and state listed. And we’re trying to restore the Everglades and bring those species back. And here we have an invasive organism that’s very effective at eating all the species that we’re trying to restore.”
Permits to hunt the monster snakes have only been issued by the state of Florida to select snake experts. These are not allowances issued to the public at large. If you encounter a python, the best course of action is always to contact the proper authorities, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Source: National Geographic
Image Credit: wildxplorer on Flickr under a CC License