Op Ed: The Great Burmese Python 2013 Challenge Is InhumanePublished January 15, 2013
Last February, Petside featured an article about the beautiful exotic Burmese Python. With its reportedly docile personality and magnificent color patterns, the Burmese Python has become one of the most popular pets for passionate snake lovers.
But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a result of the dazzling snake's allure, approximately 99,000 Burmese Pythons were imported to the United States between 1996 and 2006. Due to their exportation to satisfy the growing pet market and for hunting their skins, this left this non-native reptile species classified as “near threatened”, in their own native range in Southeast Asia, by the World Conservation Union. Additionally, untold numbers of captive Burmese Pythons have been bred for sale as pets in the United States.
Sadly though, inexperienced owners who purchase a 20 inch-long hatchling Burmese Python at a trade show or pet store for a nominal cost, will be dealing with a hefty snake measuring about 8-feet long within a year. No longer able to appropriately care for their rapidly growing snakes, and unable to suitably rehome them, many of these frustrated snake owners have been carelessly releasing their pet pythons into the wild in the sub-tropical environment in the South Florida Everglades illegally. Presently the sale or possession of Burmese pythons as pets are now banned in Florida. Federal law also prohibits importation and interstate sale of the snakes.
With its ideal temperatures and habitat conditions the Everglades offer these reptiles, the snakes have been breeding uncontrollably, resulting in a serious threat to the existing ecosytems and the native wildlife making their home in the area.
Therefore, to help reduce the population of the non-native species and to educate the public about Burmese pythons and the danger they pose to Florida’s ecology, on Saturday, January 12, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) launched their 2013 Python Challenge. This annual month-long Challenge is open to the general public and to python permit-holders giving the participants an opportunity to “harvest” the snakes. A prize will be awarded to the “Hunter” who kills the longest python, and the person killing the greatest number of these snakes will walk off with the jackpot prize of $1,500.
According to the Daily Mail, last Saturday morning eight hundred people signed up to take part in the 2013 Challenge. Some of the spectators even showed up outfitted in camouflage gear. 749 of the participants did not have the necessary permits that ordinarily would allow them to hunt pythons on public lands. 28 permit holders arrived to seek the Challenge fame and fortune. The participants received training on how to handle the snakes. Detailed instructions on how to humanely euthanize snakes was also provided.
As a Florida resident, this writer is concerned about the threat the overwhelming population of this non-native species presents, at the same time there is something about the “festive” atmosphere surrounding the Python Challenge that is greatly unsettling.
To truly ensure that these beautiful snakes are killed humanely and do not needlessly suffer, it seems to me that the FWCC would hire expert marksmen, rather than relying on a group of inexperienced, inadequately trained reptile “hunters” to accomplish this inauspicious task.
What do you think? Share your opinion in a comment.