For What It’s Worth

Did you sneak out on snake hunt?

In today’s ultra-sensitive politically correct world in which anything anyone says or does likely offends somebody, I want you to know that I’m not offended that you snuck out of going on the recent snake hunt I told you about back before Christmas. It was a good chance to earn a few post-Christmas bucks to help pay for those gifts you bought, but apparently you found another way to scrape up the cash.

Remember the 2013 Python Challenge I told you about? The one going on in Florida sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It was a great month-long opportunity from Jan. 10 to Feb. 10 to hunt down and kill Burmese pythons in the Everglades and Florida swamps. Hunters were invited to capture pythons with a prize of $1,500 going to the amateur hunter killing the most snakes and an equal prize to the professional hunter with the most kills. Oh, there was also a $1,000 prize for the hunter capturing the longest python.

And you passed on this opportunity? Hard to believe. It’s not like you like you would have been hunting rattlesnakes or cotton mouth water mocassins, both of which are quite venomous and can kill you. A Burmese python, on the other hand, is not known to attack human beings. No, those cute slimy creatures, which can reach a length of 18 feet, don’t sink their fangs in their prey to kill—they squeeze them to death. Gives a whole new meaning to the old cliché about putting the squeeze on you.

As things turned out in Florida, by staying home in Oklahoma you might have had an equal chance of finding a python in your backyard as the hunters did in Florida. Although Florida wildlife officials estimate that there are as many as 100,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades and the vast swamps outside Miami, the sneaky snakes apparently are great at hiding. The 2013 Python Challenge drew 1,600 registrants (whether all the registrants actually got out and hunted is not clear), but they succeeded in killing only 68 pythons. That falls a bit short of making a significant dent in the python population in Florida. In other words, they didn’t put the squeeze on the snakes.

Knowing that a Burmese python can grow up to 18 feet in length might have been a factor in scaring off hunters. Or, maybe not, since the snakes only grow that long in their native Asian habitats. In Florida, the average python grows to only 6 to 9 feet. Maybe all those wildlife species they are eating and threatening with extinction are not all that nutritious.

Speaking of nutritious, I wonder if Floridians eat pythons even though pythons don’t eat Floridians. In Oklahoma, some folks are known to eat rattlesnake meat, but I’m not among them although I have eaten some things that crawl, such as escargot.

As I said earlier, I’m not offended that you didn’t take advantage of this opportunity after I had alerted you. Neither did I. It wasn’t because I couldn’t use the cash; I could. But, in January I was recovering from cataract surgery, so my eyesight wasn’t what it should be for spotting snakes. Nor was it a fear of snakes that kept me home, though I do have a quite healthy respect for snakes.

Certainly, pythons are nothing to fear since they are not known to attack human beings. However, with my bad luck, as evidenced by the number of times I can roll snake eyes, it would not have been wise to take the chance. I understand the odds were in my favor, but I’m the one who once dislocated my little finger and suffered three cracks in the joint just playing catch with a football. Recently, we drove to Edmond and visited our grandson in college there, and I locked my car keys and my wife’s purse with her keys in the car.

It might have been that I would have captured the longest python, longer than the one that stretched 14 feet, 3 inches and won $1,000 for Paul Shannon of Florida, but it might also have been that instead of my writing this bit of nonsense some 16-foot long python in Florida would now be telling his family and friends about the 6-foot tall, 200-plus pound, baldheaded human he put the squeeze on.

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