Blake Russ and Devin Belliston’s 11-foot Burmese python is getting a rare reprieve: he’s going back into the wild. Why is this incredibly large creature slithering back into the Everglades when the two hunters went through so much to nab him, especially considering the fact that the Burmese python is a highly invasive species?
According to ABC News, the snake has been conscripted as a double-agent working for researchers to flush out more pythons. The python was caught as part of the 2013 Florida Python Challenge, a month-long competition meant to draw attention to the ecological danger the animal presents. The hunt ended with a modest 68 snakes. While the number of snakes caught have been cited as a failure, scientists agree this isn’t about the quantity.
“We’ve never collected so many pythons in such a short period of time. It really is an unprecedented sample,” said hunt organizer Frank Mazzotti. “It provides us with a sort of autopsy of the wildlife. There’s going to be recommendations coming out of this that will help us be able to remove more snakes from the wild.”
This will involve releasing three tagged pythons back into the wild to root out snake-gathering areas, especially breeding females. The thought of letting the largest pythons of the group run amok may concern some, but Mazzotti assures the public that the snakes are being tracked wherever they go.
“I absolutely never want to explain to someone that we left a snake out in the wild, so we make sure to put two transmitters in them so that they can be tracked,” he said.
Russ and Belliston took home the Python Challenge permit holder’s grand prize of $1,000 in an awards ceremony at Miami Zoo last weekend, followed by runner-up Ruben Ramirez. An even larger 14-foot python caught by Paul Shannons won the general competition.