Rampant Snakes To Be Hunted as Python Challenge Gets Under Way Saturday

More than 700 people have signed up for the contest

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    NEWSLETTERS

    More than 700 people have signed up for the state s Python Challenge. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino spoke about what officials hope to learn about the predator.

    It's open season on a slithering South Florida invader.

    More than 700 people have signed up for the state’s Python Challenge, which kicks off Saturday.

    "We want to make sure that we get a better handle on what their diet is, where they congregate," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino.

    A $1,000 prize is up for grabs for the longest Burmese Python caught. The hunter who captures the most pythons can take home $1,500 in the monthlong harvest, which runs until Feb. 10.

    The troublesome reptiles have been making themselves at home in the Florida Everglades, where they have no natural predators besides humans.

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    The snakes have no venom, but eat just about anything – from endangered species to household pets. Consequently, they are endangering the delicate Everglades ecosystem.

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    One 17-footer snuck up on a family picnic near Everglades National Park.

    "These animals are wild and if cornered, they will strike,” Pino said.

    Pythons have been caught on camera fighting with alligators, and even attempting to swallow one.

    It’s not known how many pythons are in the Everglades, but some wildlife experts estimate that tens of thousands of them now call the area home.

    There is a $25 registration fee to take part in the Python Challenge. Training and other activities will be offered Saturday at 10 a.m. at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, with the contest to begin in earnest at 1 p.m.

    For a registration form and more information on the Python Challenge, click here.

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