Update: the final count for snakes caught came in at 68 Burmese Pythons

Sunday marked the end of Florida’s 2013 Python Challenge with a total catch of 50 recorded snakes, reports CBS4. It was not entirely the result Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was looking for. The FWC launched the hunt early in January to help curb the population of Burmese pythons living in the everglades, which cause wide-scale damage to native species and vegetation. With cash awards of $1,000 and above to the best-performing hunters, 1,500 participants delved into the Everglades in search of the elusive animal.

Unfortunately, the python proved to be too elusive. The very same skills that allowed them to adapt so quickly to the Everglades also helped to evade inquisitive hunters.

“A lot of people thought they were going to be running across pythons every 15, 20 feet. It’s not like that,” said long-time snake hunter Ruben Ramirez.

The Burmese python’s native environment of southern Asia is not too unlike the Florida wetlands. Experts suspect the animals might have been introduced by careless pet owners. A word to the wise: releasing one of the world’s largest snakes into the wild is never a good idea.

Burmese Pythons are excellent swimmers, capable of blending in with dense brush and can lay up to 36 eggs a year. They are considered a highly invasive species in Florida, and it’s not unknown for larger pythons to have attacked adult deer.

The FWC launched the challenge as part of a media campaign to promote awareness of the python’s threat to the Everglades, and in that regard the hunt was a runaway success. The Python Challenge was picked up by both national and worldwide press and promises to leave an impression.

“We’re getting invaluable data that these pythons are going to be able to offer our biologists,”Jorge Pino, an FWC official, said. “That way we can come up with a comprehensive plan of how to keep this from happening in the future.”

Winners of the challenge, including the hunters with the most and largest catches, will be announced in a ceremony at the Miami Zoo.

Image from Karunakar Rayker (wildxplorer) on the flickr Creative Commons

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