Burmese pythons have taken over the Florida Everglades.
This is bad because the giant snake is eating all the native animals. Everything from birds to raccoons, possums, bobcats and white-tailed deer are being devoured at alarming rates, and that’s screwing up the natural order of things.
Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia. Many Floridians, however, kept the huge constrictors as pets, before it was banned by the state in 2010 (federal law now also prohibits the importation and interstate trade of Burmese pythons). Well-intentioned owners released their captive-bred snakes into the wild. Since then, the species has spread throughout the Everglades, popping up in unprecedented numbers.
To solve this problem, Florida is dolling out cash prizes for killing pythons. The contest, the first of its kind in the state, awards $1,500 to the guy or gal who kills the most snakes, and $1,000 to the person who wrangles the longest snake.
The massive python slaughter has found many takers.
More than 670 hunters from at least 30 states have signed up for the challenge, Bloomberg reports. There’s a $25 entry fee and participants must take an online course.
Novice hunters should be prepared: Burmese pythons are capable of reaching 23 feet in length and can balloon up to 200 pounds. A 17.5-foot long python that weighed almost 165 pounds was captured in the Everglades last August. Snakes this big are a concern because they can eat almost anything. It’s also a sign that the invasive species is surviving for a long time in the wild.
The contest kicks off tomorrow, Jan. 12 and will run to Feb. 10.
Gung-ho python hunters might find this interactive map of reported Burmese pythons useful for their killing spree.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.