Hunting large constricting snakes in a swamp is something you can only find in Florida. The inaugural Florida Python Challenge 2020 Python Bowl kicked off Jan. 25 and will conclude Feb. 1, leading up to the Super Bowl.
The hunt is to curb the population of the rapid-reproducing Burmese python. The snakes are thought to have become an invasive pest by starting out as some Floridians’ exotic pets.
The Python Bowl is hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. They got together at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Bass Pro Shop also sponsors the python hunting events and provides the prizes.
Both expert and amateur python hunters can register for this hunt. The winners of the competition are offered cash prizes for the longest and the heaviest snakes and even a TRACKER 570 Off Road ATV for the hunters that catch the most pythons. The pro grand prize winner, Tom Rahill, won $2000 for a 62-pound python.
According to myfwc.com, “More than 750 people from 20 states registered to take part in the 10-day competition to remove Burmese pythons, which are decimating native wildlife populations in the Everglades.”
Many people were willing to take part in the effort to help the python problem. The website also mentions the humane measures taken, “Everyone who registered passed a mandatory online training. Another 550 people took part in hands-on, optional safe-capture trainings that taught them how to identify, locate, and safely and humanely capture Burmese pythons.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) President Ingrid Newkirk wrote a letter to Rodney Barreto, chair of the Super Bowl Host Committee, and to all committee members regarding the hunt ,saying the events glorified “the slaughter of snakes.” Newkirk said, “The NFL should play no part in Florida’s war on wildlife. When inexperienced and untrained individuals go barging about in forests and swamps on a macho mission to kill, things don’t end well.”
These pythons’ appetites are insatiable. Usgs.gov credited the invaders with the decline of many Florida fauna, “In a 2012 study, populations of raccoons had dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.”
These creatures have been frequently found in the bellies of these snakes.