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