Python Bowl at Everglades Holiday Park Airboat Tours

As we all know, the Burmese pythons are invasive snakes that devastate the animal population of the Florida Everglades year after year. With many efforts targeting the removal of invasive species, Florida wildlife managers are getting more creative, introducing the 2020 Python Bowl.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the 2020 Python Bowl, inviting takers to catch and kill as many snakes as they can. Of course, hunters must be trained to handle these animals. The State of Florida is partnering with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee to encourage people to learn how to hunt down and capture this invasive species.

On December 5, 2019, DeSantis announced that the registration for the Python Bowl is now open. Beginning on January 10, 2020, Python Bowl competitors will be able to go hunting, with access to over 150 miles of trails to cover. With Florida hosting the 2020 Super Bowl in February, DeSantis hopes the event will draw attention to the massive threat that this invasive species poses to the Florida Everglades. The state hopes for funds, research, and innovative technology to get the python population under control once and for all.

The Python Invasion in the Florida Everglades

The Burmese Python: An Unwanted Guest

The Burmese Python was most likely introduced into the Florida Everglades through the exotic pet trade. The ecological crisis it has unleashed is nothing to be ignored. The python is native to Southeast Asia and thrives in the Everglades due to their lack of natural predators. As an invasive species, the python is disrupting the delicate balance of the Everglades ecosystem and endangering native wildlife.

The Burmese python is overtaking the Everglades because of their rapid reproduction rates and their massive sizes. Their amazing hunting skills and wide diet (mammals, birds, and reptiles) have allowed them to become apex predators. Their aggressive growth is leading to declines in native species and, thus, altering ecosystem dynamics.

Some native species, such as wading birds, nest in vulnerable areas. The ease with which pythons can disrupt these nests and breeding patterns is very concerning. The native birds are only one of the issues. Since the Everglades are home to many endangered species, it is crucial to protect their habitat. The Everglades are a delicately balanced ecosystem that’s incredibly complex. If the Python issues continue to grow, the decline of our beloved endangered species may increase dramatically. It’s already tricky to protect the homes and breeding rights of these creatures, and the pythons are quickly upsetting the balance and making those endangered species very threatened.

Efforts to Counter the Python Threat

Several methods have been proposed to control the thriving Burmese python population in Florida because much of the python’s introduced range includes areas inaccessible to humans. Florida Fish and Wildlife estimates there are somewhere between 100,000 to 300,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades that need to be removed.

Dogs weren’t effective in pursuing pythons because of the difficult terrain. Similarly, trapping is expensive and difficult to set up, especially over such a large area and especially for such sedentary creatures as pythons.

Biocontrol is when scientists introduce a specific virus, parasite, or bacterium into an environment that is meant to target one specific species. This form of controlling the python species has been proposed, but there is a high chance of harming other species, and the delicate balance of the Everglades ecosystem isn’t worth the risk, so this plan has not been followed through on

Perhaps the biggest success for python removal has been the Python Challenge, hosted by the FWC, SFWMD, and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. Hunters are charged a small entry fee and promised cash prizes to those who take down the longest python and/or have the most python kills. A training course is required beforehand on how to manage the snakes and how to humanely dispatch them, as firearms are not allowed. Hunting knives are a popular choice, as well as stun guns.

In addition, the pythons are a prohibited species, which means they cannot be kept as pets or imported and bred for commercial sales. Importing a Burmese Python requires a federal license.

Introducing the 2020 Python Bowl

Do you get paid to kill pythons in Florida?

Aside from the famous Florida python challenge, the South Florida Water Management District sponsors the ongoing “Python Elimination Program.” They need a limited number of individuals to humanely euthanize the invasive species of Burmese Pythons. The program is for designated lands in Monroe, Miami, Broward, Collier, Palm Beach, Hendry, and Lee counties.

This program is essential for many reasons aside from removing pythons. The hunters must report every python they capture and remove, which helps scientists and conservationists track numbers and stay on top of the issue. It also continuously raises awareness of the issue by incentivizing hunters and creating public awareness through the campaign. The incentives create a popular way for both licensed hunters and non-licensed individuals to spend their time. Weekend hunting groups are common in Florida, and it’s always keeping pythons at the front of everyone’s minds as a topic of conversation. The training these hunters must go through also dives deeper into not only tactics but also training in the underlying problem while providing safe and humane ways to euthanize these creatures. The pythons aren’t aware that they’ve done anything wrong, so it is important to treat them with respect and care.

You can get hired on and paid an hourly rate of $10 an hour ($15 depending on the area) and an added incentive of $50 per python measuring up to four feet, plus an extra $25 for each foot measured above four feet.

Can you eat the pythons?

Donna Kalil, the program’s first female python hunter, claims the snakes are very tasty when prepared correctly.

Here’s the problem: Pythons and other predators at the top of the food chain are often found with high levels of mercury in their bodies.

Exposure to mercury through the skin or digestive system can be very dangerous at high levels. It can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of everyone who touches it. In fact, high levels in the bloodstream of babies in the womb and young children can harm the child’s developing nervous systems, affecting their ability to learn and think well.

Kalil, who also enjoys hard-boiled python eggs, tests each snake for mercury before consuming it.

If python from the Everglades is deemed safe to constantly eat, it will be a fantastic incentive for the invasive species removal, as it is a white meat often compared with the taste of chicken.

What does Florida do with captured Pythons?

All pythons captured from the Everglades are humanely euthanized. The threat of their invasion is genuine and has to be pursued with great care.

There are some exceptions to this “rule.” For instance, some pythons are tagged and released back into the wild to lead conservation specialists to other pythons and nests.

A particular python that was later tagged and released was 13 feet and 9 inches long, hovering over a nest of 111 eggs! It is standard for pythons to have 50-100 eggs per nest, so this number was record-breaking.

The Environment in the Everglades is perfect for pythons, allowing them to hide well, be near the top of the food chain, have endless food options, and thick terrain that makes it hard to hunt the creatures that can reach tight places and the highest of rights.

Do you need a license to Kill pythons?

There are no permits required to hunt and kill pythons on private land. Obviously, you cannot run through the Everglades unchecked with weapons, but hunters and landowners are encouraged to allow and pursue the hunt. There is no bag limit, no tags required, and no licenses necessary.

Since no firearms are allowed during the python hunt, only humane methods are optional. Traps, bait, chemicals, smoke, explosives, and motorized tools are also disallowed, and air guns may be used only during daylight hours. That said, most hunters prefer bolt guns or sticks and a sharp tool such as a hunting knife.

The two-step process for humanely killing captured pythons is fairly simple. Use an electric shock to stun the brain and render the snake unconscious, then penetrate the brain with something sharp and quick. In this way, the snake is safe to handle while not causing any pain.

Python Bowl Rewards and Recognitions

Grand Prizes for Exceptional Hunters

Winners of the Python Bowl will be announced on January 25, 2020, during the opening of Super Bowl Live, a week-long fan fest event at Bayfront Park in Miami, FL. The python hunter who catches and removes the most pythons from the Florida Everglades will win an ATV. The hunter who captures the largest individual snake will be awarded $2,000! VIP guests will be gifted a python skin football, just like the one Governor DeSantis sported in his Python Bowl opening day announcement.

Protecting the Everglades Ecosystem

“The protection of our environment and natural resources is critical,” said Governor DeSantis. “Invasive Burmese pythons have decimated local wildlife and pose a massive threat to natural food chains as well as the flora and fauna. The 2020 Python Bowl is sure to be a great success, and I look forward to its positive effects on preserving and protecting the Everglades ecosystem.”

Joining the Fight: How to Participate

If you’re interested in hunting the giant Burmese pythons for the 2020 Python Bowl, visit the Florida Python Challenge website to learn more! This exciting conservation effort can help protect the rare habitat of the Everglades, and all the animals know the Everglades as their home.

Everglades Holiday Park: A Commitment to Conservation

Everglades Holiday Park is a place for private airboat rides, Everglades boat safari tours, and Everglades animal encounters – not invasive pythons. At our landmark park, we’re dedicated to working with Governor DeSantis and government officials to ensure that the Florida Everglades protection efforts are properly set in place. We agree that the Python Bowl is a step in the right direction in efforts to care for the unique environment the Everglades offers.

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