The Everglades War on Pythons

In 2013, Florida launched its first Python Challenge™ to put the kibosh on Burmese pythons, those deadly snakes literally squeezing the life out of Everglades wonders, from colorful birds to full-grown deer to gators.

The state-sponsored winter competition was a trailblazer, attracting amateurs and professionals alike from 38 states and Canada to help decimate this growing environmental threat. Sadly, only 68 pythons were captured of thousands estimated lurking in the Everglades.

Then the Challenge was scrapped, although the state continued its war with a python-removal program, issuing hunting permits to qualified applicants. In 2016, the Challenge made a comeback and now seems to be on again.

Even experienced Gladesmen with special permits to stalk these predators have trouble finding them—partly because tan, splotchy skin provides natural camouflage for slithering about and causing mayhem within the ecosystem. Unseasonably warm winter weather also leaves pythons, growing up to 26 feet long, without incentive to boldly expose themselves for sunning.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of the Interior—hailing a milestone in Everglades protection—announced a nationwide ban on the importation of Burmese pythons and other nonnative, large constrictor snakes, including African pythons and the yellow anaconda. The ban has stuck thus far and is helping with the problem.

No matter what the format for the state's effort to eradicate pythons, its war against invasive species and the efforts to protect Everglades wildlife continue unabated. —Lynne Helm

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