Florida’s 2021 Python Challenge Is On
Bottom Line: While teams compete in the Everglades for prizes of up to $10,000, today’s kickoff of the 2021 Python Challenge is the annual highlight of a year-round effort to attempt to preserve the Everglades and its natural inhabitants. While python hunting is state sanctioned year-round, the now annual challenge is the one event that allows hunting participants from anywhere to come to the Everglades in an effort to slay the invasive snakes. Now, not just anyone who registers is allowed to participate, prior to being able to register participants had to complete an online training course which includes a test one has to pass with 80% or above. That’s probably a good idea with as many things as could go wrong for those who’d otherwise unwittingly wander into python, crocodile and alligator territory.
The need for the hunts is critical and was brought about in part by a 2012 study illustrating the impact of Burmese pythons in the Everglades resulted in a 99% decline in raccoon and opossum populations, an 88% decline in bobcat populations and elimination of rabbit and fox populations. In addition to the impact on those species, they’ve greatly affected the food chain as endangered species such as Florida’s panthers rely on those animals as sources of food as well.
While it’s impossible to know how many pythons exist in the Everglades, and as a result how successful hunts and challenges have been in context, we do know populations are far smaller than they’d otherwise be by now. A state study showed over 5,100 pythons have been removed weighing in at over 20,000 pounds since the state began sanctioned hunts in 2013 – with 75% being females – key to stopping the spread of the invasive species. With additional removal efforts from Florida, Fish and Wildlife and the South Florida Water Management District, over 6,300 pythons in total are known to have been removed. Here’s to a successful slaying of those snakes. It runs today through 5pm on Sunday, the 18th.