The Florida Burmese python hunt which involved more than 1,000 python hunters from 29 states ended this year with 106 pythons being caught and turned into wall trophies, boots, or purses. While the capture of 106 pythons might not make a big dent into the thousands of invasive Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades, the yearly hunt does raise awareness to an increasing problem by a species that is supposed to reside in Southeast Asia – not the United States.
The longest Burmese python caught during this year’s hunt in Florida was 15 feet long and was caught by a team led by Bill Booth of Sarasota, reports NBC News on February 27. Booth’s team received $3,000 for the 15-foot-long and nearly 125-pound python. His team also won the grand prize of $5,000 for killing the most pythons – 33 out of the 106 captured ones.
“Daniel Moniz of Bricktown, New Jersey, suffered bites to the face, neck and arm from the 13-foot-8.7-inch python that won him a prize for the longest python caught by an individual,” reports the Orlando Sentinel.
Florida’s month-long python challenge lasts from January 16 to February 14 and this year’s winner was announced on Saturday. The hunt is organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which believes that the invasive species was introduced into Florida’s ecosystem in 1992 as pets and especially when they escaped during Hurricane Andrew from a breeding facility.
According to the wildlife organization, the fact that there are no natural predators for the Burmese pythons in Florida “has allowed its population to swell to over 100,000.”
“Researchers have predicted that there are at least 30,000 pythons in Florida’s everglades, with some suggesting as many as 300,000 occupy southern Florida.”
Despite the grim outlook, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron emphasizes that “each python that is removed makes a difference for our native wildlife, and the increased public awareness will help us keep people involved as we continue managing invasive species in Florida.”
Once caught, the invasive creatures are being turned over to researchers who conduct necropsies to learn more about the invasive nonnative species. Once the research is completed, the dead snakes are returned to the hunters if they so desire. Many of the Florida Burmese python hunt participants choose to turn their trophies into a wall adornment, boots, billfolds, or purses or sell the dead snakes for about $150 a piece.