Florida's python hunt draws to close

Feb. 10, 2013 at 10:30 PM

MIAMI, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The monthlong Florida Everglades python hunt produced only about 50 of the big snakes but experts say the information they'll provide will be "unbelievable."

The competition, which will pay cash prizes for the most pythons and largest python caught, officials ends Sunday night with hunters having until 5 p.m. Monday to turn in their catches so the final count will be known until then, The Miami Herald reported.

"The data we'll get will be unbelievable," state Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino told the newspaper.

State wildlife experts say there are tens of thousands of the invasive serpents slithering around southern Florida, but they can be hard to find because they blend into their surroundings. But, they say, there's no doubt the predators are having a big negative impact on the region's ecosystem.

The largest one caught in the past month so far was measured at 17.5 feet long and weighed 164 pounds. The constrictors, native to Asia, been known to reach 20 feet long, though six to nine feet is more typical in Florida.

"We'll have a better handle on the exact numbers [caught] by late Monday or Tuesday," Pino said. "But undoubtedly for us, it's a complete success. You can argue it's not a huge number, but its 50 pythons not in the ecosystem causing havoc."

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