Bounty Hunters Stalk 100,000 Giant Pythons in the Everglades


Image via Brocketts

It sounds like the plot of a bad B-movie, but it's true. Not only are a group of specially trained bounty hunters going to hunt thousands of rampant Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades--they're getting paid by the government to do it. Burmese pythons are a huge problem in Florida--and their story makes for one of the most fascinating cases of invasive species there is. Brought to the state as pets, the pythons were first released into the Everglades by owners who simply got sick of taking care of them. And sure, it's probably tough to take care of a snake that grows to be 20 ft long--but it's even tougher for a fragile ecosystem to handle 100,000 of them.

That's how many Burmese pythons are thought to be in Florida now, where they've established themselves at the top of the food chain. They eat everything: cats, bobcats, birds, deer--even alligators aren't safe from the pythons. And they're dangerous to people, too--just a few weeks ago, a python strangled a toddler.

And that's where the bounty hunters come in.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced he'll be hiring expertly trained bounty hunters who specialize in hunting down the pythons. The plan was in discussion for some time, but it looks like the pythons just got their official death sentence. Details as to what they'll be doing with the snakes after they're killed weren't available. Which brings us to the tricky question often presented with cases of environmentally devastating invasive species: animal rights enthusiasts will certainly cringe at the idea of knocking off 100,000 snakes whose only crime was to thrive in a foreign land. But the threats presented by the pythons are too great not to take preventative action, and relocating the animals would be costly, difficult, and generally infeasible.

So let's end our B-movie plot with a snazzy tag line, shall we? Something like: "A hundred thousand giant snakes have invaded Florida, consuming everything in their path. Now, only a ragtag band of bounty hunters can stand in their way. Good hunting."

Seriously, though--with any luck, the operation will hopefully help restore the balance of the Everglades ecosystem.

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Tags: Conservation | Florida

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