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Whacking Day Comes to South Florida

 The day is upon us. Yes, every Simpsons fan knows Whacking Day started in 1924 as an excuse to beat up the Irish. And yes, technically Texas has had organized snake whacking for years. But now Florida's bravest most cunning snake-hatingest citizens will descend upon the swamps of this state in search of Burmese Pythons (and other "reptiles of concern"), in order to study learn from photograph kill them.

Last month the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began issuing permits allowing individuals to search for and euthanize these snakes for the sake of scientific study. (Early studies indicate extremely high levels of mercury in the animals.) This weekend those permit holders (there are less than 20 in the state) will be joined by, well, just about anyone who wants to whack a snake. Technically, it's anyone with an alligator hunting license, though a statement released by the commission says those rules could open up even more soon.

According to the press release:

The FWC's goal for these programs is to contain the spread of Burmese pythons in the wild and prevent the establishment of other Reptiles of Concern.  Data collected by hunters on these state-managed lands at the edge of the range of Burmese pythons will assist in preventing movement of pythons out of this range. It is estimated there are thousands of Burmese pythons in the wild in South Florida.

Some estimate as many as 100,000 non-native pythons roaming the swamps of Florida. To advance the story, I called the FWC last month to see if I could go on a ride along.

"There's a list we can get you on," a spokesperson told me. "It should take about a week."

Four weeks later, I got the call. Though editors here The Juice have nixed the idea of a snake hunt story for the print product, Thomas "Super Kung Fu Blogmaster" Francis (and no, that's not his dog, for those interested) has not yet declined the unmade offer of a few snake-hunting themed blog posts.

I'm thinking there may be an appearance by Barry White.

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Michael J. Mooney

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