HOMESTEAD, Fla., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said nearly 400 people have signed up for the 2013 Python Challenge in the Everglades.
The commission said the month-long Burmese python hunt, which begins Saturday, has nearly 400 participants registered thus far from 17 states, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Monday.
The event, which only requires hunting licenses for those less than 18 years of age, features a $1,000 prize for catching the longest snakes and $1,500 for nabbing the most pythons.
Some experts have questioned the wisdom of putting amateurs in charge of hunting the invasive species.
"Going out into the bush in Florida is a potentially dangerous thing to do," said Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University who studies the Everglades. "This is very, very rough terrain. Getting stuck out there without enough water could be a life-terminating experience."
Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the commission, said law enforcement officers will be on hand during the hunt to prevent harm to the hunters and native species.
"Of course any time you do something like this people are going to have concerns," she said. "I think that overall, people understand that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with and are very supportive and understand that these actions are warranted."