The Florida Burmese python hunting contest, named the Python Challenge, opened up on January 12, but organizers expected many more dead snakes to be turned in by now. As of Friday, January 18, there were only 21 pythons captured and killed. Nearly 800 people from more than 30 different states registered for the competition which awards $1,000 to the person who kills the largest snake and $1,500 to the hunter who bags the most.

Even a man known as “Alligator Ron” who has a lifetime of hunting experience in the Florida Everglades and , could not lead hunters to a single python, according to the Associated Press.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that pythons are simply hard to spot. “When these snakes are in the water, in the vegetation, they blend in naturally to where you can’t hardly see them,” State Wildlife Commissioner Ron Bergeron told the AP. This is what gives them an advantage in the wild and is part of the reason why the invasive species has survived so well.

Another factor is that the majority of people who signed up for the contest are amateurs, possibly out on their first snake hunt. Only about 30 of those that signed up hold a permit for harvesting pythons throughout the year. Yet, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) is grateful for the help.

“The 2013 Python Challenge is an unprecedented effort to focus public interest, support and direct involvement to help deal with Burmese pythons,” said FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright in a press release. “The FWC is pleased that so many people are joining this earnest effort to limit the impact of this invasive species on Florida’s diverse native wildlife. Floridians and people from all across the United States truly care about the Florida Everglades, and they are clearly eager to help us better understand and solve this problem,” Wright added.

“When they harvest snakes, Python Challenge competitors will be collecting valuable data that will contribute to the current Burmese python research and management efforts of the FWC and its partners,” Wright said. “We are grateful to Python Challenge participants, sponsors and partners for helping make this event happen.”

Image from Kevin Enge/Florida Fish and Wildlife on the flickr Creative Commons

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