No, it's not a Monty Python routine: On Wednesday Florida state wildlife officials announced a new competition called the Python Challenge. The month-long event will run from Jan. 12 to Feb. 16 and people of all ages (hunting permits are required for anyone under the age of 18) are encouraged to compete for cash prizes by killing as many of the invasive snakes as possible.
Sound like fun? The person who kills the most Burmese pythons will receive $1,500 and a $1,000 prize will reward the hunter who brings in the longest snake. The largest Burmese Python found in the Everglades to date was more than 16 feet long and weighed more than 100 pounds.
The goal of the competition is not only to slash the species’ numbers, but also to raise public awareness about how the Burmese python threatens the Everglades ecosystem and to encourage responsible pet ownership so nonnative species aren't released into the wild.
Burmese pythons have threatened many endemic Everglades species—some to the brink of extinction—as they hunt for food. Although python eggs and small snakes are eaten by a number of animals, once a python grows more than eight feet, it becomes a top predator. The snakes were first reported in south Florida in the 1980s, but they are native to Asia. An established population now lives in Everglades National Park.