68 pythons found sounds like a scene out of a science-fiction horror film. However, in Florida, hunting down the “zombies of the Everglades” means dealing with a Burmese python infection that is a menace to Florida’s national wildlife. The Daily Mail reports on Feb. 18, 2013, that,
“Pythons are kind of the zombies of the Everglades, though their infestation is less deadly to humans. The snakes have no natural predators, they can eat anything in their way, they can reproduce in large numbers and they don't belong here.”
The 68 pythons that were found and killed during Florida's month-long “Python Challenge” are among the many “zombies” that are plaguing the Florida Everglades. According to Florida wildlife experts, pythons are just the tip of the invasive species iceberg that is a threat to Florida’s native wildlife.
John Hayes, the dean of research for the University of Florida's Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, commented that “Florida is home to more exotic species of amphibians and reptiles than anywhere else in the world.”
Wildlife officials estimate that up to 100,000 snakes have invaded Florida’s Everglades region.
In order to protect Florida’s native wildlife and to combat the infestation plague of exotic animals, about 1,600 hunters from over 30 states had signed up for the competition in the hope of winning big prizes for removing Burmese pythons from Florida.
“The recommended method for killing pythons is the same for killing zombies: a gunshot to the brain, or decapitation to reduce the threat. (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn't approve of the latter method, though.)”
Burmese pythons can grow up to 18 feet in length, but despite their size, finding the camouflaged pythons in Florida's swampland was quite a challenge. Officials report that the python hunters covered “a million acres of swamp, brush and sawgrass.”
The python hunters were allowed to hunt in four state wildlife management areas. However, Everglades National Park which is a wildlife refuge was off-limits. The hunters could use firearms, captive bolts and machetes to kill the pythons.
Out of the 68 pythons found, Ruben Ramirez of Miami tracked down and successfully killed the largest amount of pythons, a total of 18 snakes. Brian Barrows of Fort Myers, Florida, killed six out of the 68 pythons.
Both hunters won a $1,500 grand prize, Ruben Ramirez in the professional category and Brian Myers in the amateur category.
The longest python of the 68 pythons that were found was a Burmese python that measured 14 feet and 3 inches. Paul Shannon, also from Florida, received $1,000.
Even though only a total of 68 pythons were found and killed during Florida’s month-long “Python Challenge” which ended on Saturday, the organizers of the “Python Challenge” event are happy with the outcome of 68 less Burmese pythons that are a menace to Florida’s native wildlife.
Organizers feel that the month-long event was a success because 68 found pythons means 68 less "zombies" and because the event has helped to gather important information about the huge Burmese pythons. The “Python Challenge” competition also contributed to raising public awareness about the infestation problem in the Everglades.