Python Challenge Opens in January

December 12, 2012

If you’ve ever wanted to kill a python, your chance has come. Florida has declared a one-month blitz on Burmese pythons in the Everglades area from January 12 to February 10, and wildlife officials want you to kill as many of the snakes as you can. It’s called the Python Challenge, and it’s akin to crowd-sourcing wildlife management.

Whoever kills the most pythons wins $1,500. Whoever kills the longest wins $1,000. Officials are calling it an ‘incentive-based model’ for addressing the problem of feral pythons, and it’s the first such event offered by the Florida Fish and Game Conservation Commission.

“As far as calling it a bounty, that has the potential to backfire,” said Carli Segelson, South Region Public Information Coordinator for Florida Wildlife Commission. “I won’t go into the details of that, but we’re staying away from it.”

Segelson didn’t have an estimate on the number of entrants thus far, though at least 19 states will be represented, and she didn’t know how many people to expect. In fact, Florida doesn’t know how many pythons live in the area. In a lot of ways the Python Challenge is an experiment.

To a lot of us, it’s a good reason to spend a month’s worth of nights cruising the swamps.

Entrants are required to keep a GPS tracklog of their hunt and must take a 30-minute class on identifying and killing Burmese pythons. All snakes will be checked by wildlife officials. You don’t need a hunting license or special permit to enter, and you can hunt at any time, day or night. But if you want to be eligible for the longest python award, the snake can be in no more than two pieces.

Officials are hoping that the data collected through the Challenge will help researchers know more about the python population. They’re also hoping to raise awareness of the problem the snakes pose to the Everglades ecosystem.

Burmese pythons can grow up to 26 feet long, though the longest python documented in Florida was just over 17 feet.  As exotic pets, the snakes often escape, or are released into the wild, where they then become an invasive species. They’ve been a problem in Florida since the late 1970s, and officials say the snakes have now established a stable, breeding population.

When a python gets about 8 feet long, it becomes a top predator in the ecosystem. Estuarine ecosystems are among the most sensitive natural environments, and a feral apex predator, like a 10-foot python, stands to do a lot of damage. Florida wants them all dead

How do you kill a Burmese python? Any way you can, though officials suggest a captive bolt or firearm or machete. We suggest a DPx Gear HEFT 6.

But no matter the method, you must “destroy the Burmese python’s brain,” say officials. “The central nervous system of a python (and all reptiles) is tolerant to low oxygen and low blood pressure conditions,” which means the snake can live for up to an hour with its head detached.

So cut off every snake’s head with your HEFT 6, and send us a photo at

Will Grant

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