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Python Challenge Slithers On Despite Concerns From PETA

Associated Press

Florida’s Python hunt is underway. Wildlife officials are offering cash prizes to encourage hunters to catch and kill as many of the invasive species living in the Everglades as possible. The event has attracted hundreds of amateurs armed with machetes and guns but one animal rights group is concerned.

The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, worries about using decapitation as one of three legal methods Florida Wildlife Officials have authorized for killing pythons. Lori Kettle with PETA, is calling on the state to ban the practice.

“We just want a humane solution to this problem,” Kettle said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Director Nick Wiley said he respects those views which is why all hunters are trained.

“What we encourage is decapitation and also bludgeoning the head so that you can go ahead and end any nervous reactions that might be occurring,” he said.

The month long python challenge is aimed at controlling the exploding population of non-native snakes in the Everglades. 

Hunters compete for two prizes; $1,000 for the longest python killed and $1,500 for the most pythons taken out of the Everglades. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner, ‘Alligator Ron’ Bergeron, said the hunt will help reduce the overwhelming population of the invasive species, but he doesn’t recommend people follow his technique, which is to catch the snakes by hand.

“Once I see the snake and normally they run from you, is to catch up with them, grab them by the tail, let them go forward, let them think they’re getting away and when they lift their head up, you’ve got to get them right behind their head to where they can’t come around and bite you,” Bergeron said.

Officials recommend shooting the snakes in the head or using a device that drives a bolt in the brain. Last year, a Burmese python registering at 17 feet and 160 pounds, took the prize for the biggest snake on record caught in Everglades National Park.