With just a little more than a week remaining in the hunt, the 2013 Python Challenge has seen the capture and (hopefully relatively swift and painless) killing of 37 Burmese pythons in the Everglades. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission -- which is sponsoring the hunt -- announced the latest kill count on Tuesday morning via its official Facebook page.
The commission is using social media to solicit and share photos and stories from the competition, which seeks to cull the invasive snakes from the Everglades' delicately-balanced ecosystem. One such story comes from Fort Lauderdale resident Rupert "Captain Stretch" Lean. The England native and outdoorsman tracked and killed a python on January 16. Lean said; "I'm not that into going out and killing, but I thought it was a good cause." He went back on the hunt on January 20, but had less luck.
An unknown number of the massive, non-native snakes live in the Florida wild. While the hunt likely won't make a biologically significant dent in the population, it certainly has raised public attention of the threat of exotic invasive species as news organizations from all over the world have delighted in the offbeat story. In addition, each snake will be examined by University of Florida researchers, according to a story from FloridaToday.com.
Possession or sale of Burmese pythons as pets is currently prohibited in Florida. Federal law prohibits the importation and interstate sale of the species. Anyone in possession of a prohibited reptile -- or other exotic pet -- can take advantage of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Amnesty Day events. One such event is planned for March 2 in Fort Myers. An amnesty event for Miami (at Zoo Miami) is planned for late March, though no date has been selected. The events allow pet owners to surrender animals without penalty. The goal is, in part, to keep animals from being released into the wild: This is how the pythons came to be such an environmental concern.
The python hunt ends on February 10. An awards ceremony is planned for February 16 at the University of Florida's Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.