Posted: July 1, 2017
What would you do for a free T-shirt? Would you try . . . killing a python?
Right now, Burmese pythons are slithering through the Everglades in Florida. As they go, they’re eating. We don’t mean just having a snack here and there. If you checked out the insides of one of these huge snakes, you’d find all kinds of animals that usually hang out in the Everglades. Here’s what a 13-foot python can eat in five to seven years: One raccoon . . . gulp. One possum . . . gulp. Four alligators. Ten squirrels. Fifteen rabbits. Thirty-six birds. Thirty cotton rats. Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp. YIKES!
The Everglades is a huge tropical wilderness in Florida. The hungry snakes are wiping out animal populations there. Florida officials have tried a few things to fix the problem. They hired professional snake hunters. They tried holding a python-roundup contest. Snake-catching tribesmen even traveled from India to help. But the tan-and-brown pythons are very, very good at hiding. Lots of them still live in the Everglades—somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000!
Florida officials have a new plan: the “Python Pickup Program.” They encourage anyone—not just trained snake catchers—to capture pythons. The capturers must kill the snakes humanely. Everyone who snaps a photo of his or her dead snake will win a T-shirt. He or she will be entered into a drawing. Drawing winners receive prizes like GoPro cameras, backpacks, and gas cards.
Professional snake hunters don’t think it’s a good idea for amateurs to go on the hunt for pythons. Pythons are not venomous. But if they bite you, they might not let go. The bigger pythons get, the bigger the prey they eat. (The remains of three deer were found inside one 15-foot-6-inch python last year!) Pythons capture their prey by grabbing it with their teeth, coiling around it, squeezing, and then swallowing it whole. They have no fear of humans.
Most people don’t want pythons hiding out near their homes. But they also might not want to tangle with them—even for a T-shirt.