The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has announced the Python Challenge, which is set to begin once again in early 2016. The aim of the program is to encourage people to catch invasive species of pythons in the Everglades region.
The Burmese python is one of these invasive species, now thriving by the thousands in the Everglades. The python is native to Southeast Asia and is believed to have been set loose in the Everglades in the 1980s. The population of Burmese pythons has been increasing exponentially in the past few decades.
The python poses a threat to native species. This exotic species of snake does not have natural predators in the wild apart from alligators.
Burmese pythons are quite large and feed on local prey. Wildlife conservation efforts include studying the impact of the exotic snake species on animals in the Everglades.
Officials are encouraging the public to take part in the Python Challenge to help reduce the population of Burmese pythons in the state. The challenge will offer cash incentives for catching Burmese pythons.
Each year, around 200 Burmese pythons are caught in the Everglades, officials say.
In 2013, the Python Challenge saw 1,600 participants from 38 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. The month-long event resulted in 68 Burmese pythons being caught.
"The enthusiastic support from the public, elected officials, conservation organizations, government agencies and researchers gives hope that we can make progress on this difficult conservation challenge by working together," said Nick Wiley, Executive Director of FWC in 2013.
Wildlife officials are hoping that the upcoming event will attract even more participants and result in the capture of even more Burmese pythons. It will also train the public in identifying invasive species of snakes and reporting them to relevant authorities.
Registration for the Python Challenge 2016 will open in October this year.
Photo: Hannes Styeyn | Flickr