Scott: The Florida Everglades. Marshy woods, home to sixty-eight threatened or endangered species, birds, hundreds of alligators and something much harder to see…tens of thousands of Burmese pythons.
Nick Wiley: It is an invasive species that’s, unfortunately, become established in South Florida and our Everglades ecosystem.
Scott: The Burmese python is an invasive species that actually comes from Asia, not Florida, where it is disrupting the local environment. So, how did it get there? Well, the Florida Wildlife Commission says that many of the pythons, which can grow to be twenty feet long, actually came from pet owners who bought them as babies and then dumped them when they got too big.
The pythons in the Everglades are killing the native animals that belong there, including deer, panthers and even bears; which is why the state of Florida kicked off what it calls the Python Challenge, a month-long snake hunt with prizes for those who catch and kill pythons.
Jorge Pino: The python does not belong here and we are trying to do the best we can to control a population. And if we can try to eradicate it, that’s certainly something that we will try to do.
Scott: One thousand people from more than thirty states have signed up. Most of them are amateurs.
Sean Hicks: We have zero experience – zero hunting experience. And I have never killed anything ever. We’ll see.
Blake Freeman: The problem is they are hard to find, so we are here to hunt and kill python. But it is kind of a lottery. You’ve got to be able to find one. They are hard to find.
Scott: And they can be dangerous.
Jeff Fobb: So, you don’t want the animal to wrap around your torso.
Scott: Jeff Fobb teaches would-be hunters how to handle the massive snakes. Although he would prefer they be caught, not killed.
Jeff: It’s not what I would choose, but we have to live in the real world. And the real world is there’s not enough places to take and send these animals that would be safe.
Scott: The hunt won’t eliminate the python problem, but it is a start. Professional hunters George Brana and Ruben Ramirez bagged three on Sunday, including this six-footer.
The person who brings home the most pythons wins $1500. Though this little guy won’t take home first prize for the longest, the one that does gets $1000.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.