The Florida Python Challenge, in which hundreds of people compete to hunt the enormous pythons slithering over southern Florida, is now being participated in by amateur Burmese python hunter Jake Waleri.
In Florida, Burmese pythons are an invasive species. In the 1970s, they were probably released into the wild as exotic pets for the first time. Since then, they have caused enormous damage to the local ecology, and their number is only growing. Following such a large capture, Waleri told Newsweek that he is taking part in the yearly Burmese python hunt because he believes he has a strong chance of winning.
“This year, I’m personally competing because I think I have a chance to finish first or second in the amateur class. I’ve had a terrific month of hunting, and my cousin Steve and I are really looking forward to going out and competing against the other competitors,” Waleri said.
The Florida Python Challenge, in my opinion, is quite intriguing since it encourages regular people to go out and contribute to the solution of a problem that is obviously causing serious problems for our state. Many individuals go outside because they could win a financial reward, and once the challenge is complete, many people find that they genuinely like python hunting enough to do it often in their leisure time.
The challenge is divided into a number of categories, including “Professional” and “Novice.” For each, prizes are given forth. These awards include cash prizes for catching the most pythons (first place receives $2,500; second place receives $750); and the longest snakes (first place receives $1,500; second place receives $750). Huge female pythons are especially desired since killing them results in fewer eggs being laid.
The rule of the challenge is that pythons must be killed with the least amount of pain possible. The challenge cannot be taken on by pythons that are not killed in this manner. When a python is captured, participants may deliver the snakes to a check-in station, where authorities will then watch them.
Despite being non-venomous, Burmese pythons have a vicious bite. The snakes’ up to 100 sharp, curved fangs are exceedingly sharp. A bite from one can result in puncture wounds and, if it goes deep enough, serious harm.
The Python Challenge isn’t very risky, according to Waleri, but there are certain safety precautions to take into account.
Beware of alligators
It’s usually a good idea to keep an eye out for any huge gators nearby or below the surface while capturing a python close to water. But other vehicles are my biggest worry. I have to be on the lookout for any inattentive drivers who could go a bit too far out of their lane and strike me or my vehicle while I’m hunting right next to a busy road,” he added.
“Of course, being bitten by a python is always a possibility. I’ve learned that it’s better to simply let anything happen if it seems like I’m about to get bitten. If a python bites into my hand, it will hurt even worse if I try to pull away since it will just rip the flesh apart. As long as the snake isn’t more than 10 feet long, the majority of python bites don’t cause any serious harm.
Burmese pythons are an evasive species that are adept at concealing, however they may grow to enormous proportions. However, Waleri said that the strategies he and Gauta use are “quite basic” while being efficient.
We use bright spotlights to search from the road down into the marsh while hunting from the bed of a pickup truck moving at a speed of around 10 mph. At night, pythons are often seen just next to the road.
The US-41 or Turner River Road are where I often go hunting, said Waleria.
According to Gauta, this method is called “road cruising.”
“Once we locate a snake, we position ourselves between it and the marsh and grab it by the back of the head to prevent a bite. We have thumbs, which distinguish humans from other animals, therefore we can simply unwrap the snake in most cases, according to Gauta.
This may be more challenging with much bigger snakes, like the one they caught last week that was close to 18 feet long.
“To combat such a massive snake, it needed many people. While Jake and Josh held the corpse in their hands, I grabbed behind the head. Unless you grasp the head too far forward or back, not much usually goes wrong, the man added. Then you’ll be bitten, and since these snakes have fangs that point backward, the bite may be rather painful. I used to be anxious, but now that I’ve captured enough pythons, capturing the snakes seems relatively normal.
The challenge for this year is open from 8 a.m. on August 5 to 5 p.m. on August 14. These novice hunters are motivated by more than simply the financial reward.
Because I like being outside and learning more about the animals in south Florida, the challenge appeals to me, according to Gauta. “Given that these pythons are such a devastating force, I feel that it’s my duty to attend and participate in the python challenge to give our local species a fighting chance,” the participant said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is organising a 10-day hunt to eradicate as many snakes as possible from the environment.
Along with his cousin Stephen Gauta, Waleri enjoys hunting a great deal.
The 18-foot, 100-pound Burmese python was captured by the amateur hunters and another hunter, Joshua Laquis, while they were travelling along US-41 close to Monroe Station.
Although the snake didn’t break any records, it was really near. The record-holding python, which was also 18 feet long, was captured in June by a team of python trackers from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Following such a large capture, Waleri told Newsweek that he is taking part in the yearly Burmese python hunt because he believes he has a strong chance of winning.