TAMPA — Aspirant python wranglers should make their way down to the Everglades, where the hunt for invasive and distressingly huge Burmese pythons is now underway in the famous Florida wilderness.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports that 1,000 people from 30 US states have registered to compete in this year's "Python Challenge," which will end on Feb. 16.
Why kill Burmese pythons, an indisputably attractive reptile?
According to the website, the hunt is being conducted "to raise public awareness about Burmese pythons and how this invasive species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife." (Surely, the appeal of saying that one has successfully captured and killed a gigantic invasive death snake should not be discounted, either.)
The pythons happily feed on endangered native wildlife, as they possess few predators other than humans and alligators, and have been known to devour a small dog or two when they get the opportunity.
The Miami Herald reported that the 2013 python-hunting season has been open since Sunday. In its first three days, the hunt has already registered 11 kills — not an insubstantial number, considering that the reptiles can reach 23 feet in length and 200 pounds.
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Competitors in the hunt will compete for both quantity and length of Burmese python killed, and in most cases will be able to hang onto the skins. The event will end with Python awareness and awards events at the Miami Zoo.
Further, CNN reported that prizes of up to $1,500 will be dished out to hunters who collect the finest specimens.
Read more from GlobalPost: Record-breaking Burmese python captured in Florida
Sorry, though — you can't eat them. The FWC says that the snake meat contains dangerously high mercury levels.
The bodies of the snakes will be taken to the University of Florida, which will analyze them as part of a scientific study to determine the habits of these potentially dangerous US transplants.
The gigantic snakes are native to the steamy jungles of Asia, and were likely brought to Florida for the pet trade, according to the University of Florida.
Some of the animals escaped their captors (or were released, a remarkably poor idea) and realized that Florida's muggy climate was not unlike their Southeast Asian home — and a massive, swiftly-breeding problem was born.
There are no reported python attacks on humans in the US, says the FWC, and researchers are working to determine the exact environmental effects of the snakes on the ecosystem — an endeavor which the Python Challenge, strange as it seems, will aid.