When people think of reptiles in Florida, they typically think of the alligators. However, the Burmese Python is what should come to mind. This invasive species is literally changing the ecosystem in the Florida Everglades, and that’s why the Florida Python Challenge is an annual event.
In fact, these pythons have become so big, that they are actually a threat to alligators and eat their young.
It is an event that welcomes snake hunters from around the world to compete to see who can hunt the most pythons. The Python Challenge includes a cash prize of $2,500 for the hunter that catches the most. And this year is poised to be the largest event.
In total, there are over 850 snake hunters registered for the event. It lasts for 10-days and hunters are encouraged to remove as many snakes as possible. This is just one way the state is attempting to vacate this invasive species.
In total since 2000, over 17,000 pythons have been removed, yet they still run rampant.
Why Is the Challenge Necessary?
So, what makes the Florida Python Challenge necessary? These pythons are literally destroying the ecosystem by hunting mammals of all sizes.
For those unaware, the Burmese Python is the longest snake in the world. It can reach sizes of 10 to 16 feet in length. They are not venomous, but once they wrap around their prey, well, it’s over. This even includes mammals as large as deer and bobcats.
Here is an eye-opening statistic; there is a 90% reduction in raccoon, opossum, bobcats, and foxes since the Burmese Python arrived.
One of the major challenges is that these snakes can lay up to 100 eggs in a year. Thus, their populations are getting out of control. And to make matters worse, they have very few natural predators. As such, they are wiping out the mammal population.
And just as a reminder, these snakes are eating alligators.
At this point, only human intervention can keep the population under control without introducing a natural predator. While estimations vary wildly, it is calculated that between 30,000 and 300,000 Burmese Pythons live in the Florida Everglades.
If left unchecked, mammals will be wiped out completely in a matter of years.
How Did the Burmese Python Enter Florida?
Like all invasive species, the Burmese Python entered the state in a nefarious manner. There are two main theories.
The first is that exotic pet owners began dumping them in the Everglades. These snakes eventually become too large for the owners to safely manage, not to mention that they are expensive to feed.
Due to it being the perfect environment, the population got out of control.
The second theory is that during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a snake breeding and holding center was damaged. This allowed it and other snake breeds to enter the wild. In reality, it was most likely the combination of both.
In either case, once they entered the wild, there wasn’t much to stop them. They soon became the dominant species.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.