MIAMI – A state-sanctioned hunt on public lands for invasive Burmese pythons is about to end.
The month long Python Challenge ends Sunday at 7 p.m. As of Monday, organizers say 102 pythons had been caught since the competition began Jan. 16.
Researchers believe tens of thousands of pythons may be slithering through the Everglades, decimating native mammal populations. They’ve been known to grow up to 18 feet in length in Florida. Some experts believe pet owners released their Burmese into the wild when the snakes grew too big.
The first public python hunt in 2013 netted 68 snakes. Cool temperatures and more training appeared to help this year’s hunters, who are competing for various prizes.
Both teams and individuals were encouraged to enter. The hunter team with the most pythons at the end of the competition will fetch $5,000, while the individual with the most will get $3,500. The hunter team with the largest individual snake will get $3,000, while the individual will get $1,000.
The hunt’s final tally will be announced at an awards ceremony Feb. 27.
All the snakes captured were killed and turned over to researchers trying to find clues to help control the python population.
In the Florida Everglades, it is “basking season” for Burmese pythons when the cold-blooded snakes seek out the warmth of the sun. Officials say the cooler weather right now has forced more of the snakes into the open and may be helping with the tally this year.