The Python Challenge Final Tally: 50 Dead Snakes And A Whole Lot Of Unanswered Questions

Feb 15, 2013

The Python Challenge: a bust or a boon? Depends on how you look at it.
Credit USFWS:Southeast / Flickr Creative Commons

The wacky challenge that grabbed national headlines -- and perhaps more than its fair share of derision -- will come to a head Saturday morning, when the 2013 Python Challenge awards are presented in Miami.

The first-ever Python Challenge is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sponsored event intended to cull the exotic Burmese pythons from the Everglades and raise awareness of invasive species in Florida. 

In the lead-up to Saturday's public announcement of winners, officials and associated personnel are staying tight-lipped about the results of the month-long hunt and what was found inside of the captured snakes. University of Florida professor Dr. Frank Mazzotti is  lending scientific support to the FWC. His team is tasked with analyzing the dead snakes and performing necropsies on the samples. He was unable on Thursday to offer any details about his team's findings.

"We don't have much info from the necropsies," he said via email. "We have taken samples but have not analyzed them." All additional data had been "turned over to the FWC" and couldn't be shared in advance of Saturday.

What is public knowledge at this point is that a total of 50 snakes were captured during the hunt, which concluded on Feb. 10. A story this week from TIME was critical of the figure, saying, "The Python Challenge sounded like a pretty bad idea. In reality, it was probably worse than most people imagined." Reporter Brad Tuttle writes; "Those who envisioned piling up pythons left and right are now sorely disappointed. The vast majority of hunters didn't catch a single snake." 

The FWC, meanwhile, has stated that its primary goal wasn't to smite the reptiles from the Everglades, but to raise awareness of the ongoing issue of invasive species in Florida. To that end, Saturday's event will include numerous presentations and educational materials on the exotic/invasive crisis, which encompasses more than just snakes. 

To get in on this quintessentially "weird Florida" event, head Saturday to Zoo Miami located 12400 SW 152 St. in Miami. Winners will be announced there at 10:30 a.m. with awards given for longest Burmese python and most harvested. The event is free and will be taking place outside of the Zoo Miami gates (admission to Zoo Miami is not included in the event).