It seems the results are in from Florida’s latest great experiment in environmental adventurism. For those who somehow missed the story, the Sunshine State has been seeking ways to deal with the new, imported alpha predator in their swamps… the Burmese Python. They’re overrunning the state, eating cats, dogs and small alligators, and frightening parents. For a solution, they offered an open hunting season with prizes for the most snakes caught as well as the largest.
Many of us applauded this visionary type of forward thinking. After all, once you’ve essentially dangled a nice check in front of the cast of extras from Gator Boys to load up the swamp buggy with a jug of moonshine, a shotgun and an ax, what could possibly go wrong? The locals responded in droves and they have now tallied up the results.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Saturday that 68 Burmese pythons were killed during the January 12-February 10 competition that drew 1,600 registrants lured by prizes of up to $1,500.
Though the take was small, wildlife officials said their main aim was heightening public awareness of the invasive species.
Saying “the take was small” might be a bit of an understatement. The total came in at 68. If the current estimates of the python population are accurate, that leaves only 98,932 to go. The most prolific amateur hunter collected a check for turning in six, and the longest one caught was 14′ 3″ from nose to tail.
I’m sorry to say that this ship has probably already sailed. Humans change their environment, for better or worse. It’s part of who we are and the technology we’ve mastered. The snakes are now here, and Mother Nature will eventually balance out at a “new normal” with the pythons joining the gators at the top of the food chain. As a species we’ve introduced all sorts of new animals and plants all over the world with varying results. Australia has really turned into a mixing bowl and undergone huge changes, but the continent seems to somehow plod along. Snakes in Hawaii have wiped out a lot of birds. That’s sad for the birds and bird lovers, but they’re largely gone now and the snakes have made a place for themselves. Stopping the expansion of nature is a rather fruitless effort once it gets up a head of steam, and I think the snakes in Florida’s swamps are here to stay.
On the plus side, there was one guy there making snake skins into articles of clothing and charging up to $3,000 for a pair of pants. This could be an opportunity for somebody.