Python hunters continue state-sponsored roundup
WEST BROWARD, Fla. (WSVN) -- Hunters continued to scour the Everglades hoping to catch as many Burmese pythons as possible.
This weekend marks the last chance participants of the 2013 Python Challenge will have to hunt the large reptile. The goal of the month-long event, urged on by Senator Bill Nelson and other state officials, is to remove the foreign predator from South Florida's ecosystem.
The pythons have mass-produced themselves to the extent that they're wiping out vast populations of species that are natural to the region.
Hunter Dennis Jordan indicated that "it's an amazing challenge to try to catch these big snakes."
Another male participant commented, "If they would have told me 10, 15 years ago, 'You're going to be road cruising for Burmese pythons,' I would have said, 'You're crazy, no way.'"
Officials said that the best way to kill a Burmese python is to shoot it in the head, because their brains can continue functioning for about an hour after they are decapitated.
The hunters' weapon of choice has been nicknamed "The Judge." It is essentially a pistol that fires shotgun cartridges.
The 30-day challenge resulted in the death of more than 50 Burmese pythons, a small number considering thousands remain in the Everglades. The hunters were required to log the exact location where they caught the snakes, a measure that has resulted in fewer caught pythons than expected.
Scientists have also been examining the contents of the dead pythons' stomachs. Their goal, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Jorge Pino, is "to gather as much information as possible about these pythons. We want to know what they're eating, what their habitat is, where they're finding their food. All this is going to be very important for us to develop some sort of strategic to combat this problem in the future."
Even though participants in the roundup didn't trap as many pythons as they were hoping for, the state still calls the roundup a success. "Everyone that's participated is very happy, they've enjoyed it tremendously, and we removed over 50 pythons from the ecosystem in Florida, so it's a win-win situation for everyone involved at this point," Pino said.
Sunday is the last day hunters will be allowed to turn in pythons. Final results of the 2013 Python Challenge will be announced Feb. 16 at Zoo Miami.
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