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'Python Challenge' Reinstated To Remove Invasive Snakes From Florida's Everglades National Park

Jan 04, 2016 02:02 PM EST
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Burmese pythons are one of the many invasive species wreaking havoc in Florida's Everglades National Park. To remedy this problem the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is bringing back the "python challenge," a state sanctioned hunt, which will run from Jan. 16 through Feb. 14 this year.

These large constrictors are native to South and Southeast Asia. Since 2000, however, nearly 2,000 pythons have been removed from the national park, which researchers believe represents only a fraction of the total population in the park.

Burmese pythons established themselves in Florida following the accidental or intentional release by pet owners, and have since dramatically impacted the park's ecosystem by preying on native wildlife and competing with native predators. While Burmese pythons prefer to live near streams in rainforests, they can survive in a variety of habitats. In the wild these snakes prey on mammals, birds, and reptiles of various sizes.

During the Python Challenge participant hunters compete to catch the most and the longest pythons. In addition to offering various prizes, the event aims to make people aware of non-native species and how to report them to local authorities. In the previous challenge, held in 2013, hunters captured 68 snakes. 

The Florida FWC partnered with the Burmese Python Removal Competition for this year's hunt. 

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