Florida is having serious trouble with a number of invasive species. Perhaps foremost (at the moment) is the Burmese Python (Python bivittatus). The snake has found Florida extremely convivial. The nearly 20 foot long reptiles eat nearly everything in sight. The state is fighting back. One of the methods is the “Python Challenge.” Python Challenge 2023 has just ended.
The python problem is serious. In some areas the reptiles may have eaten 90 percent of the local mammals by some estimates.
The Florida Python Challenge is simple. Professional and amateur hunters register with the state and hunt pythons during a week in August. It is competitive and winners receive prizes for removing the most snakes. The top prize is $10,000 and there are several smaller but still substantial rewards.
Florida Python Challenge has the rules and requirements on its website. One of the important rules is that the snakes be killed humanely immediately after capture. Pithing is the expected method of killing the snakes. Pithing disrupts the brain and spinal cord of the snake.
Killing a python is a two-step process. The snake must be unconscious before pithing, Hitting the snake on the skull with a hand-held hammer is one method. A screwdriver, ice-pick or other similar tool is then inserted into the skull. The tool must be moved in a variety of directions to scramble the brain and spinal cord. The snake must not regain process.
Snakes can be decapitated after being stunned, but pithing is still required.
Results of the 2023 challenge are not available yet.
In 2022 hundreds of snakes were captured and eliminated. The grand prize winner captured 28 snakes.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) website:
“Under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), South Florida Water Management District and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida host the Florida Python Challenge® to continue raising awareness about invasive species in Florida and their impacts. The annual competition encourages people to get directly involved in Everglades conservation through invasive species removal. This year, the Bergeron Everglades Foundation provided the $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize while Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands provided prizes to the winners in the active-duty military and veteran category. The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Cynthia Drollinger provided
the additional prizes. Visit FlPythonChallenge.org. for more information.” (Links in original)
Although the pythons are grabbing the headlines, other invasive species pose a real threat to Florida. Asian swamp eels are an emerging menace. There is also a list of invaders potentially poised to raise havoc.