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Sunday, February 17, 2013

THE GREAT FLORIDA GIANT SNAKE HUNT


(Photos mostly from the Huffington Post.)  The Great Florida Python Hunt is over, and let me count the ways the state won (below, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron searching for a Burmese Python):

  1.  This should help tourism, for almost any non-crime notoriety is good for publicity.

  2.  The fact that so few were caught will give confidence to those with snake phobias to visit.

  3.  No hunter got eaten by a python, kind of a miracle, for one of the remarks made about the effort was that many of the participants were seriously drunk.

  4.  Best as I can count, they awarded $8000 to the winners and collected $40,000 in fees (1600 hunters at $25 per).

To recap, a month ago the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (to the right the staff holding a 21-foot python skin) sponsored the event to raise awareness about invasive species and gain specimens for lab study.  There were two classes, those trained and those not.  So, tada....the winners:

Trained/permitted registrants:  Ruben Ramirez (left): $1500 for catching the most pythons (18) and $1750 for the two longest (said to be more than 10 feet, but implied was less than 14 feet).




General hunt: Brian Barrows (right) was responsible for six pythons and won $1500, while Paul Shannon (left) got $1000 for a 14 feet 3 inches long python.  They were part of a team on an airboat using guns on six separate days.  Said Shannon:

“When it jumped at him and he dropped it and dove in the bushes, I came around and it was coiled up. The coil was 4 feet wide,” he said. “The head was as big as my hand. I have nightmares about that vision of it coiled up, ready to strike again.”

Well, let's see now.  The official estimate is that there are 150,000 Burmese Pythons in southern Florida.  As recently as 1979 there was none.  Pet snakes escaped or were released, and females give birth to 100 babies.

Sixty-eight Burmese Pythons were killed, so there are still 149,932 scurrying around and eating deer (to the left a Florida python eating one) and other indigenous mammals.  Or is this total exaggerated?  You had about a one in a thousand chance of killing a python.  National Geographic called this a cheap stunt.  TIME magazine said this was a silly idea.  Scientific American hooted about this being a bad idea.



So, guess what?  Chances are that this could well become an annual hunt.  Perhaps next year they'll even open up the area with all the Burmese Pythons, the Florida Everglades.  And, oh, by the way, there are also boa constrictors and anacondas in Florida.  They should come up with a new title:  The Giant Florida Giant Snake Hunt.  Or maybe the Hawaii Tourism Authority should consider something, for according to this site, Hawaii has all of these kinds of large snakes, which is news to me.  I thought there were only blind snakes (right) here, about as large as an earthworm.


In any case if you in the future want to try this adventure, become capable with:

  -  something about the size of a flashlight called a captive bolt (left, which you can purchase from Amazon.com for $349), the kind used to stun cattle;

  -  a gun, but this is said to be dangerous, messy and smelly; and

  -  a machete to decapitate the prey, but animal activists say this is cruel.

You should also bring a labrador retriever trained to sniff large snakes.

Now for the movie about the prehistoric Titanoboa (titan, boa constrictor, get it?), which lived 50 million years ago, for this monster got up to 40 feet:


I can see Spielberg combining the Great Florida Giant Snake Hunt and a Titanoboa into a blockbuster film.  Hmmm...maybe my next novel.

*****

UPDATE:  Appears the authorities made a mistake, for someone named Blake Russ actually won the permitted category for longest snake.  While Ruben Ramirez will keep his $1000, Russ will also get $1000 for an 11feet long python.  My best guess is that he is the one in chartreuse green below:


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