Aug 4, 2022 - Things to Do

Shhh ... We're hunting pythons in the Everglades

 JANUARY 12: A Burmese python is held by Jeff Fobb as he speaks to the media at the registration event and press conference for the start of the 2013 Python Challenge
Jeff Fobb holds a Burmese python at the 2013 Florida Python Challenge. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

We're going python hunting. We don't love the idea, but we're doing it for you, friends. And for Florida.

Driving the news: The Florida Python Challenge, an annual, state-sanctioned hunt aimed at ridding the Everglades of invasive Burmese pythons, runs from Friday to Aug. 14.

  • So Selene and Ben are headed down to kill some big freaking snakes and save the Earth.

Why it matters: Burmese pythons — which proliferated in the Everglades in the 1980s after pet snakes were released into the wild or possibly blown there by Hurricane Andrew — have wiped out native animals.

  • Between 1997 and 2012, populations of raccoons dropped 99.3%, opossums 98.9%, and bobcats 87.5% because of the snakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes "effectively disappeared."

What's happening: Ben paid the $25 registration fee, took the required 20-minute online training and passed a quiz with flying colors.

  • He is now basically an expert and looking forward to collecting the cash prizes — $2,500 for the most pythons and $1,500 for the longest python.

What we learned: Snakes are often hidden in plain sight. Look for them in snake-type places, like there by your ankles, or hanging off a limb above your head.

  • You want to approach it from behind and pin the head down with a snake hook. (If anyone has a snake hook we could borrow, hit reply.)
  • Then render it unconscious with a captive bolt stunner or air gun shot to the brain. (We need one of those, too, please.)
  • "Destroy the brain" by "pithing" — aka whisking, essentially — with a screwdriver. (Have that, check.)

What they're saying: "Working at ground level helps you prevent the python from wrapping around your face, neck and chest, all of which you don't want," the training video said.

The other side: "Jesus Christ," said Selene.

Of note: Hunters will be disqualified if they don't kill the snake this way — or if they do this to a native snake, Selene.

By the numbers: Since 2000, more than 16,000 pythons have been removed from Florida ecosystems. But a single mama snake can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time.

  • Florida's most recent state budget allocated $3 million for python removal, including development of technologies, like near-infrared cameras, to help locate them.

Flashback: Last year, about 600 hunters removed 223 snakes, more than double the year before.

Selene's thought bubble: Mom and dad, whatever happens, it's Ben's fault.

Axios Miami's Deirdra Funcheon contributed to this story.

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