Python Challenge 2013: Zombie Pythons Infest Florida Everglades

First Posted: Jan 14, 2013 01:12 PM EST

Nearly 800 people armed with guns and knives set out on Saturday to hunt down one of the most dangerous predators in the Florida Everglades: the Burmese python. Like the shambling zombie hordes in many horror movies, the python has infested almost every inch of the Everglades while devouring native species.

The month-long "Python Challenge", sponsored by the state, will offer cash prizes to whoever brings in the longest python and whoever bags the most pythons by Feb. 10. Although there are several ways to dispatch these snakes, the recommended method is a shot to the head: a useful skill to hone if the zombie apocalypse ever occurs.

Burmese pythons were first introduced to the Everglades after a pet owner either released his snake or allowed it to escape. Since then, the population has boomed. The pythons eat eggs by the dozen, drastically affecting bird populations in the area. In addition, the snakes are strong swimmers, can grow up to 20 feet in length, and are able to adapt to climates that are cooler than South Florida. They've already moved into the Florida Keys, and some biologists theorize that they could easily survive across the whole southern third of the United States. 

Around 2,050 pythons have been harvested in Florida since 2000, but it's barely made a dent in the population levels. Since Burmese pythons are easily camouflaged among the long green grasses that cover the Everglades, officials don't have a clear estimate on the amount of snakes currently thriving in the wetlands. One thing is certain, though. Hunters will have their work cut out for them.

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