Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have announced that the Python Challenge, a public hunting “contest” for Burmese pythons in the Everglades, will not be repeated in 2014. Although wildlife officials have called this year’s Python Challenge a success in both providing data for researchers and raising awareness of Florida’s python problem, the agency ultimately decided against holding the event for a second time.
“Our primary goal for the Python Challenge was to raise awareness, and we felt like we reached that goal,” FWC Exotic Species Coordination Section Leader Kristen Sommers told the Sun-Sentinel.
The 2013 Python Challenge proved to be popular among hunters, with 1,500 signing up to take place in the trek through the Everglades. The national park has been grappling with a python problem for years. As one of the world’s largest snakes, the invasive Burmese python is considered a sizable threat to native species. The snakes are already being blamed for a decrease in bird populations, and may pose a danger to animals as large as coyotes or even the rare Florida panther.
Efforts to root out the pythons have met with mixed success. As a tropical snake, Burmese pythons have proven to be highly adaptable within the Everglades ecosystem. While some scientists believe that the climate of southern Florida is not adequate for the sustainability of a python population, the snakes managed to reach worrying numbers within the Everglades. They are also, by many accounts, hard to hunt. The Associated Press reported that during the Python Challenge, the most successful hunters were the ones that had previous experience in tracking pythons, accounting for most of the 68 snakes harvested during the competition. The FWC is now increasing efforts to educate the public about the invasive species and training hunters (and other people who routinely find themselves in python territory) on how to kill the animals.
“Just because we’re not having a Python Challenge, doesn’t mean there aren’t the opportunities for people to hunt pythons,” Sommers said.
Image courtesy Skip Snow/National Park Service