The Great Burmese Python Challenge: How Many Can You Kill?

One month from now, something very unusual -- and very, very Florida -- will occur in the Everglades, representing a metaphoric clash of man and beast: the Burmese python challenge. Its requests are simple. Kill as many snakes as you can.

No, no, no. Don't worry. You don't need a hunting license or anything. Just your wits and, if possible, a sharp object. Preferably a giant knife for decapitating purposes. Bring the kids! Make this a family day. There are indeed educational opportunities to be had. The day of the challenge, January 12, will also feature a tutorial on how to "dispatch" the vermin, which apparently requires much wrangling and, ultimately, one dead giant snake.

Many of the specifics haven't been ironed out, said Carli Segelson, spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. As in: Just how, specifically, will a bunch of hunters trap and kill the animals? Is this dangerous? Does this event somehow channel the Florida ethos?

"I don't even know how to answer that," she said.

Instead we talked a great deal about dead snakes. And that the only good Burmese python is, in fact, a dead Burmese python.

And let's not coddle the snake. Its mass slaughter couldn't be more necessary, Segelson said. Over the past generation, the Burmese python -- an invasive species -- has decimated the Everglades' natural fauna. It has gobbled up millions of other animals unique to their environs.

And now, it's time to fight back. With knives and shotguns and something Segelson called a "captive bolt," which Wikipedia translates to a "device used for stunning animals prior to slaughter."

It apparently works thusly:

So mark your calenders, grab yo' huntin' knife, and get into the Everglades. The person who snares the largest snake will collect a grand prize of $1,500. And think of all the captive bolts you could buy with that.


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Terrence McCoy