For What It’s Worth

A hunting you can go

Admit it. You’re overspending for Christmas, and you may need to find a way to generate a little extra cash after Christmas. I know just the thing for you to do.

Win the Python Challenge.

That’s python, as in snake…big snake. You may think your Christmas spending has put the squeeze on you, but one of these babies could put a squeeze on that would put you in more of a bind than any overspending has done.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, what is the Python Challenge? It’s a month of hunting Burmese pythons in South Florida beginning Jan. 10 with prize money of up to $1,500 for the winners—winners being the ones who capture the most pythons.

Are you all coiled up in excitement and anticipation? Are you ready to snake your way down to Florida and slither into the wetlands and corral some pythons? It might beat fighting the holiday shopping crowds at Walmart. And probably safer.

Here’s the deal. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to eradicate the pythons, a nuisance species that has been spotted in the Sunshine State since the 1980s. Apparently, these snakes, which are native to South Asia, were introduced to Florida when some people purchased them as pets and then turned them loose in the wild. They have been increasing by leaps and bounds, maybe that should be by slithers and coils.

If snakes scare you a bit, shake off that fear. These are pythons, not rattlesnakes like in Oklahoma. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman said there has never been a documented Burmese python attack on a human in the Florida wild. I’ll bet that makes you feel better. Or, maybe it brings to mind that old cliché, “There’s a first time for everything.”

As more assurance of just how non-threatening it would be to hunt pythons in Florida, you might want to keep in mind that these non-venomous snakes are actually fairly small. At least, they are small in Florida compared to what they are in their native South Asia range. The longest one ever found in Florida measured a mere 17 feet. In their native range, they can measure up to 26 feet in length. This means that, if you encounter one in Florida and decide flight is the better part of valor, you have at least a 9-foot head start compared to having the same situation in South Asia.

Remember, too, they don’t attack humans—at least they’ve not been documented to do so. The problem is that they eat native birds, reptiles and small mammals, many of which are threatened species. Because of this, Florida wants them eradicated.

But, if they are not venomous, how do they kill their prey? They coil around their prey, squeeze them tightly (very tightly), and then swallow them. No rattles on their tails to warn you and no swelling and pain from fang-injected poison. Plus, you are a human so you need not fear that they will put the squeeze on you.

No doubt by now you are hissing at me to tell you how to get information to prepare yourself for the hunt and come home with money to pay the post-Christmas bills. That info is on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, along with some tips on how to identify Burmese pythons. Your first clue might be that if it’s 17 feet long, it ain’t no Oklahoma rattlesnake or cottonmouth.

Oh, the site also offers a list of some ways to safely kill the snakes once you find them. One method of dispatching a python is to decapitate it with a machete. That’s right. Man up, Cowboy, face that dude head-on, one-on-one, and wield your machete.

If it’s okay with you, I’ll settle for standing 15 feet away and using a firearm. No doubt, you agree with me. Will assume so anyway unless I see you sharpening a machete while watching bowl games.

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