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Florida Wildlife Officials Order A New Python Hunt


Florida wildlife officials are hosting another snake hunt, but they don't want to call it a hunt. It's the Python Challenge. It's not likely to put much of a dent on the growing population of the invasive species, but that doesn't mean the event will be a failure.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it looks at the 2013 Python Challenge as a success because is raised awareness of the problem. The next challenge, set for early 2016, will do more of the same and give researchers a chance to learn more about Burmese Pythons and their painful impact on the Florida Everglades. Hunters can register this October. 

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these snakes now living in the Everglades and other parts of Florida. Researchers are now understanding that the Burmese can and will eat just about anything. The University of Florida now says that the Burmese can definitively be linked to a massive reduction in marsh rabbits.

The 68 snakes captured in the last challenge showed researchers that pythons are evenly split in what they eat, everything from rats to rabbits to wading birds. Some snakes were also eating small alligators.

The following map was produced in partnership with the Florida Invasive Species Partnership and tracks hundreds of pythons reported, confirmed and captured. According to the reports, some of the snakes were never captured, just identified.

The FWC reports that pythons on average lay up to 36 eggs, but some have been known to lay as many as 107 eggs. They tend to start laying them in May and June.

Back in March, the federal government officially banned reticulated python, DeSchauensee's anaconda, green anaconda and the Beni anaconda. In 2012, the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, and northern and southern African pythons were banned. Most of the pythons are found south of Lake Okeechobee. 

In 2013, 1,600 people signed up to be part of the challenge to hunt pythons. The wildlife commission has yet to post any information on their website pertaining to registration. They may once again offer cash prizes for capturing larger snakes.

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.
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