Florida wildlife officials invited people to help look for and capture Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) in the Everglades, a natural region of wetlands in the southern parts of the state of Florida.
Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), said that participants can either capture or kill the invasive snake species – which usually grow to about six feet (almost two meters) in length. The brownish markings on their skin make the snakes very well camouflaged.
So far, about 95 snakes have been caught by 1,035 volunteers, according to Segelson. In 2013, the participants captured about 68 Burmese pythons.
This year, the challenge lasted from January 16 and to February 14. It is essentially a way for the state of Florida to control the population of Burmese pythons. Because it is an invasive species in the area, the snake population can damage the native wildlife and the ecosystem, Segelson said.
The pythons have prospered in the Everglades, eating the native fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The only major way to get rid of them is the Python challenge, according to experts.
There are two possible ideas as to how the pythons got established in the Everglades. One of them is that the shanks escaped from captivity in 1992 during Hurricane Andrew. The second idea is that pet owners might have set their pet snakes free into the wild.
According to a website called PythonChallenge.org, it takes about 15 hours (on average) to spot a python. However, it may be easier to find the snakes in canal banks, marshes, open areas, and pine rocklands, the site also stated.
Volunteers should put the snakes in breathable bags – like a cotton pillowcase – then place the bag in a ventilated container, which will be handed over to officials.
People can call 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 (1-888-483-4681) whenever they come across an invasive species of animal or plant in the wilds of Florida. To help capture the snakes year-round, volunteers can also join the Python Patrol.
Segelson said that the longest Burmese python that has been caught in Florida was eighteen feet (5.5 metres) long. The Burmese python is one of the five largest species of snakes in the world, and in its native habitat on the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia it can grow up to 26 feet long (8 m) long, she explained.
Image Source: discover magazine