Life in the Florida Everglades is a constant, natural battle for survival. It’s a remarkably dense ecosystem, packed with rare animal and plant diversity that has thrived for thousands of years. But recently the invasive Burmese python has been threatening the natural balance with its voracious appetite and ability to take down just about any prey.
So once a year humans venture en masse into the wilds of the Everglades to try to rescue the natural wildlife from this slithering threat. Through a month of hunting, the annual Python Challenge netted 106 wild pythons. The largest snake stretched 13 feet, 8 inches long.
Now, that catch total may seem like a lot, and it may even evoke some pity for the pythons that will soon become snake-skin decorations, but experts estimate that the Everglades are home to as many as 100,000 Burmese pythons in total. The pythons broke free of a breeding facility during a hurricane in 1992 and have since have ravaged the local raccoon, rabbit, and opossum populations.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has hosted the hunt annually since 2013, and every year they are pulling more pythons out of the Everglades, a sign that they are either getting better at catching the invasive snakes or there are just a whole lot more of them.
The prospect of hunting pythons may seem exciting or terrifying, but it certainly sounds dangerous. Yet a video of Daniel Eugene Moniz capturing a 12 footer simply shows him walking through some dense grass before reaching down and pulling out the huge snake. It does try to wrap itself around Moniz, but he appears in control the whole time.
It’s also worth noting that Moniz won the individual prize for python catches, so he may just be making it look easy. He caught 13 snakes, entitling him to another $3,500. In the group category, a team led by Bill Booth took home $5,000 after dispatching 33 pythons. The experts may have reigned at the award ceremony, but plenty of amateurs seemed interested in getting a taste of python killing.
The success of the hunt also raised questions about why Florida doesn’t sanction python hunting year round or even place a bounty on snakes to encourage hunting. There’s a lot of work to be done to rein in the python population, and it hardly seems worth it to venture deep into their domain to take on tens of thousands of the ecosystem interlopers.