Florida’s Everglades region has a rather big problem: Burmese pythons, one of the world’s largest snakes, are having a devastating effect on the ecosystem. As this non-native species—released into the wild accidentally or intentionally by pet owners—thrives and multiplies, it has proven nearly impossible for wildlife officials to rein in the population.
In its desperation, however, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has turned to a control method likely to vastly increase the amount of animal suffering: Beginning in mid-January, the FWC’s “Python Challenge 2013” set the public loose, armed with guns and machetes, to hunt down the snakes in areas outside Everglades National Park. The persons who kill the most and biggest snakes get cash prizes. Decapitation is allowed, though it is “not the recommended method of euthanizing pythons” according to the official Challenge website, which adds that “the brain of a python can remain active for up to an hour even after decapitation, thus allowing the snake to experience pain.” AWI Wildlife Biologist D.J. Schubert says the snakes themselves should be treated humanely and not be cast as the villains: “They are merely trying to survive after either being ripped out of their native lands or born in captivity to feed the voracious snake trade.”