The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 18, 2013

21 invasive pythons killed so far in Fla. contest

— IN THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES (AP) — The man known as "Alligator Ron" has a lifetime of experience in the Florida Everglades, a fleet of airboats at his disposal and knows the habitats of furry prey for large reptiles. He still couldn't lead a pack of hunters to a single Burmese python.

That's the catch in Florida's "Python Challenge": Even experienced hunters with special permits to regularly stalk the exotic snake through Florida's swamplands are having trouble finding them for a state-sponsored competition.

"When these snakes are in the water, in the vegetation, they blend in naturally to where you can't hardly see them," said state wildlife commissioner Ron Bergeron, whose nickname is emblazoned on the rudder of his black airboat, over the image of him riding an alligator.

The vast majority of roughly 1,000 people who signed up to hunt Burmese pythons on public lands from Jan. 12 through Feb. 10 are amateurs when it comes to pythons. Only about 30 hold permits for harvesting pythons throughout the year.

The permit holders might have a slight edge when it comes to handling snakes, but the tan, splotchy pythons have natural camouflage that gives them an important advantage in the ecosystem they have invaded.

As of Thursday, 21 pythons had been killed for the contest, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It's hard to pin down exactly how many Burmese pythons slither through Florida's Everglades, but officials say their effect is glaringly obvious. According to a study released last year, sightings of raccoons, opossums, bobcats, rabbits and other mammals in the Everglades are down as much as 99 percent in areas where pythons are known to live.

It's believed that the pythons are devouring the native wildlife and officials worry the snakes' voracious appetite will undermine the ongoing, multimillion-dollar effort to restore natural water flow through the Everglades.

Text Only
State and Nation
Photos


Poll

Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

Russia-Ukraine
Israel-Palestine
Iraq
None of the above
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee