Florida says Python Challenge hunt was a one-off

Nov. 16, 2013 at 2:01 AM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The two-month Python Challenge fulfilled its purpose of bringing attention to the problem of invasive Burmese pythons, Florida environmental officials say.

But the state does not plan a re-run, the (Fort Lauderdale) Sun Sentinel reported Friday. The challenge brought in 1,500 hunters who killed a grand total of 68 snakes.

"Our primary goal for the Python Challenge was to raise awareness, and we felt like we reached that goal," Kristen Sommers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said.

Everglades National Park, which was off limits to the hunters because of National Park Service rules, hosted a conference last week on dealing with Burmese pythons and other invasive animals. Possibilities include capturing female snakes and releasing them with electronic transmitters, hoping they will serve as lures for male snakes, and using dogs to track down the pythons.

"A number of these techniques work. The big challenge in South Florida is the landscape. They're very difficult to see," said Linda Farr, a spokeswoman for the national park.

"The challenge is how you find and remove snakes in this big wilderness that has so many protections. You have 2,400 square miles, and most of it is inaccessible. It's just a very challenging wilderness."

South Florida is battling other invasive species such as the 4-foot tegu lizard from Argentina. An article Friday in the online magazine Slate suggested another exotic snake, the green anaconda, could soon become a bigger problem than the python.

The anaconda, which is native to South America, is bigger than the python, making it less vulnerable to native predators such as the alligator, Slate said. It is also less vulnerable to fire ants because it bears live young and spends much of its time in water, where it is also less likely to be spotted.

While there have been few confirmed sightings of anacondas, Slate suggested some people may have seen them and kept quiet for fear of ridicule.

Topics: Snakes
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