Hunters slither down to Florida for ‘python challenge’



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Monday 14 January 2013

Last update 14 January 2013 5:34 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

IG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Florida: An armed mob set out into the Florida Everglades on Saturday to flush out a scaly invader.
It sounds like the second act of a sci-fi horror flick but, really, it’s pretty much Florida’s plan for dealing with an infestation of Burmese pythons that are eating their way through a fragile ecosystem.
Nearly 800 people signed up for the month-long “Python Challenge” that started Saturday afternoon. The vast majority — 749 — are members of the general public who lack the permits usually required to harvest pythons on public lands.
“We feel like anybody can get out in the Everglades and figure out how to try and find these things,” said Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “It’s very safe, getting out in the Everglades. People do it all the time.”
Twenty-eight python permit holders also joined the hunt at various locations in the Everglades. The state is offering cash prizes to whoever brings in the longest python and whoever bags the most pythons by the time the competition ends at midnight Feb. 10.
Dozens of would-be python hunters showed up for some last-minute training in snake handling Saturday morning at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.
The training came down to common sense: Drink water, wear sunscreen, don’t get bitten by anything and don’t shoot anyone.
Many of the onlookers dressed in camouflage, though they probably didn’t have to worry about spooking the snakes. They would have a much harder time spotting the splotchy, tan pythons in the long green grasses and woody brush of the Everglades.
“It’s advantage-snake,” mechanical engineer Dan Keenan concluded after slashing his way through a quarter-mile of scratchy sawgrass, dried leaves and woody overgrowth near a campsite in the Big Cypress National Preserve, which is about 50 miles southeast of Naples and is supervised by the National Park Service.
Keenan, of Merritt Island, and friend Steffani Burd of Melbourne, a statistician in computer security, holstered large knives and pistols on their hips, so they’d be ready for any python that crossed their path. The snakes can grow to more than 20 feet in length.
The most useful tool they had, though, was the key fob to their car. Burd wanted to know that they hadn’t wandered too far into the wilderness, so Keenan clicked the fob until a reassuring beep from their car chirped softly through the brush.
The recommended method for killing pythons is the same for killing zombies: a gunshot to the brain, or decapitation to reduce the threat. (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t approve of the latter method, though.)
Pythons are kind of the zombies of the Everglades, though their infestation is less deadly to humans. The snakes have no natural predators, they can eat anything in their way, they can reproduce in large numbers and they don’t belong here.
Florida currently prohibits possession or sale of the pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of the species.
Wildlife experts say pythons are just the tip of the invasive species iceberg. Florida is home to more exotic species of amphibians and reptiles than anywhere else in the world, said John Hayes, dean of research for the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Roughly 2,050 pythons have been harvested in Florida since 2000, according to the conservation commission. It’s unknown exactly how many are slithering through the wetlands.
Officials hope the competition will help rid the Everglades of the invaders while raising awareness about the risks that exotic species pose to Florida’s native wildlife.
Keenan and Burd emerged from the Everglades empty-handed Saturday, but they planned to return Sunday, hoping for cooler temperatures that would drive heat-seeking snakes into sunny patches along roads and levees.
Burd still deemed the hunt a success. “For me, I take back to my friends and community that there is a beautiful environment out here. It’s opening the picture from just the python issue to the issue of how do we protect our environment,” she said.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

SYDNEY: Amnesty International has demanded that Mustafa Al-Hosawi, a Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, be treated for the torture he underwent at the hands of the CIA.The US branch of the organization sent a message to health officials at the...
JEDDAH: The city’s airport staff saved a 20-year-old woman who tried to throw herself from the upper floor to the mezzanine floor in the southern hall. Sources said the suicide attempt was due to family disputes. Administrators said a supervisor in t...
RIYADH: Education Minister Ahmad Al-Issa has ordered to gradually close down private night schools beginning from the current year. The closure of these schools will be complete by 1439H.Al-Issa’s decision is based on reports of a body, which highlig...
RIYADH: A cross-section of Saudi society on Friday denounced the Jazan massacre that shook the nation on Thursday, when a gunman went on the rampage killing seven education officials and injuring several others in Al-Dair governorate.The culprit, ide...
JEDDAH: Maj. Gen. Awad Al-Balawi, head of the Saudi Border Guard, recently confirmed the expansion of the employment program for women within the border security sector. He said that the sector is entering a new phase as women will be employed in a n...
RIYADH: A medical team of the King Abdullah Specialist Children’s Hospital (KASCH) at the King Abdulaziz Medical City (National Guard) here have successfully conducted the first liver transplant on a baby boy. Fahad Mari Said Al-Sairdh, father of the...
JEDDAH: The Makkah Investigation and Prosecution Board reintroduced the crane crash incident to the Riyadh Investigation and Prosecution Board recently, adding 10 more employees and supervisors from different government agencies before the courts. Th...
JEDDAH: The teacher who gunned down seven education officials in Al-Dair governorate on Thursday had been showing behavioral problems in recent days, Al-Janob Misfer Al-Subhan, director of King Faisal Secondary School in Dharan, was quoted as saying...
JEDDAH: The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is investigating the Nakheel Mall case, in which a girl was beaten up by a group of Haia members, an official of the commission has said. “The HRC is supposed to guarantee the rights of those harmed, whoever...
AL-AHSA: King Faisal University (KFU) in Al-Ahsa is currently studying the possibility of admitting female students to specialize in veterinary medicine, the director of the university, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saati, confirmed. He said the matter has been p...
JEDDAH: A fingerprinting campaign, titled “Imprint Homeland,” against extremism and terrorism, was launched at the Jeddah corniche on Thursday night. The drive will cover all the 17 regions of Makkah province.The campaign, initiated by the Makkah gov...
RIYADH: The number of unemployed Saudi nationals reached 647,000 by the end of last year, of whom 56 percent, or 363,800, hold bachelor’s degrees or licenses. Female bachelor’s degree and license holders accounted for three-fourths of unemployed Saud...
RIYADH: Four citizens have been arrested in two murder cases, one of which was a road rage. One of the suspects resisted arrest and even opened fire on the police, but no one was injured.According to the Riyadh police, a clinic informed them that it...
MAKKAH: Thirty percent of male middle school students and 23 percent of female students take some form of drugs, a recent scientific study from the National Center for Youth Research confirmed. The study shows drug consumption rates among students in...
RIYADH: Several government departments participating in a campaign to fight breast cancer in the Eastern Province will offer their recommendations to the Ministry of the Interior to include breast cancer checks for women aged 40 and above as part of...

Stay Connected

Facebook