From August 5 to 14, 2022, Florida will host the Phyton Challenge, an event aimed at preserving the state's native fauna. The Burmese python is an invasive snake that is destroying Florida's ecosystem, and for this reason the state is promoting an event to put a stop to this animal. Controlled hunting of this reptile helps balance Florida's native wildlife, reducing the danger to animals and people. This annual event is supported by state institutions, which promote the capture of pythons during the ten days of the Python Challenge.
The organization encourages participation through a ranking in which professional hunters are highly prized. On average, a professional snake hunter usually earns about 13 dollars per hour, although the rate increases depending on the size of the catch. Being awarded a prize in the Florida Python Challenge is a recognition of your professional work, and a guarantee of success.
The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, inaugurated this new edition, in which there are substantial prizes to attract professional and novice hunters. There are three categories in which to compete (professional, novice and military (active or retired) and different prizes ranging from US$750 to US$2500. Prizes are awarded on the basis of:
To the largest number of snakes captured (the two participants with the most specimens, first and second prizes).
To the longest python (also two prizes, first and second classified).
Controlled capture of invasive species in Everglades
Florida strictly controls that hunting is done in a controlled manner, for which it is necessary to take a preparatory course (in case you are a novice). It explains how to hunt snakes, and what dangers to avoid. This course can be followed online, on the eve of participating in the Challenge. The registration fee is $25. According to the Florida Python Removal Program, more than 10,000 animals have been able to be removed during these days since 2017 when it began.
Firearms are prohibited in the Python Challenge, only stunners that knock the animals out are used. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) endorses this procedure, in which animal suffering is eliminated. In fact, it is precisely this type of control campaign that avoids the killing of invasive animals.
Everglades residents are grateful for the participation of all those who help them hunt the Burmese python. There are an estimated 200,000 Burmese pythons in the area, which pose a threat to local wildlife. The iconic habitat in this area of South Florida is visited daily by hundreds of people who admire the nature of the region. The 2022 Python Challenge is expected to surpass last year's numbers (in which 600 people from 25 states participated).
Species preservation in Florida
The Burmese python is one of the most invasive species in existence. Because of its large size and voracity, it has become a dangerous animal for South Florida. The Everglades area is the most affected, because pythons compete directly with other native reptiles: alligators.
Burmese pythons proliferated in the 1980s, when they became fashionable as pets. It is believed that as a result of uncontrolled abandonment by their owners, along with Hurricane Andrew, the snakes began to colonize the Everglades.
In Florida there are at least 139 species considered invasive, which pose a threat to local wildlife (especially rabbits, deer, gopher tortoises, white ibis and the American alligator, also known as the Mississippi River alligator). The invasive species control program includes the Phyton Challenge as one of its tools. These containment methods are necessary to protect natural resources. In addition, this event aims to raise awareness about the environmental damage caused by invasive species and the abandonment of exotic animals without control.