With the Super Bowl in Miami a week away, the results of the Python Bowl captivated South Florida on Saturday. That’s right; it was announced 80 Burmese pythons had been dragged out of the Everglades by a band of cash-hungry snake hunters and Mike Kimmel won an off-road ATV for bagging the most – eight. His buddy Tom Rahill won $2,000 for bringing in the longest – a 12 foot, seven inch reptile -- and Tom got another $2,000 for the heaviest, a 62-pounder. Dave Mucci, who is in the Air Force, won the Military Division (only active members of the Armed Forces or veterans are eligible) and earned the $2,000 top prize in that category with an 11 foot, 6.5-inch monster.
Over 750 people from 20 states registered for the 10-day competition and what made it so big is because the Everglades’ delicate ecosystem is being decimated by the invasive reptiles.
It is popularly believed that back in the 1970s, pet owners discarded their snakes because the things had gotten too big to keep. As one hunter explained: “There are no natural predators in Florida for pythons. They eat all the small animals that feed gators and other native species. They can lay 100 eggs at a time and reproduce again after these eggs hatch in 3 months. This is a perfect environment for them to spread. Why a person would want one of these as a pet is beyond me. They eat everything and grow tremendous. They live in water and land and the Everglades is perfect for them. Some animals have been driven out of the area because of it. They are a total nuisance.”
Oh, if it were only that simple. The Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Located in south Florida, it sprawls over 733.5 square miles and during the wet season, “a river of grass” that is 100 miles long and 60 miles wide flows through slowly and has been a vital part of our ecosystem. The Everglades National Park covers about 20 percent of the sawgrass marsh so it is bigger than you can imagine. Today it is estimated that there are 100,000 Burmese pythons scattered from here till yon and the threat to nature’s balance is easy to understand.
With Super Bowl LIV (54, if Roman numerals bother you) pitting San Francisco against Kansas City this Sunday (6:30 p.m. kickoff), Florida Fish and Wildlife joined the South Florida Water Management crowd to showcase the catastrophic damage the pythons are causing. The Python Elimination Program just doubled in size and, while hunters have flourished, the state of Florida is offering a full-time job as a “python removal agent” that pays $8.65. But wait! Included are “bounty” clauses that pay $50 per python, an extra $25 for every foot over a four-foot standard (an 8-foot snake would be $150) and an additional $200 for photographic evidence a snake is guarding her nest (eggs).
The Water Management District, which started its elimination in 2017, shows that the most snakes are under four feet (841) but 423 have been 7-8 feet long. Another 674 have been within 6-to-7 feet and 8-to-9 feet. Better yet, if you stretched the snakes that have been caught from head to tail, one right after another, you would have a line 17,174 feet long (example: Two miles is 10,560 feet, the maximum depth of the Grand Canyon in 6,093 feet.) If you put all those snakes on a scale, they would weigh 32,124 pounds. (Example: Eleven tons is 22,000 pounds, an African elephant weighs 13,000 pounds and a Ford F-150 pick-up truck weighs 4,894 pounds).
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THIS FROM THE SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime foe of the python hunts, sent a letter to the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee calling on it to end its backing of the event and criticizing the manufacture of python-skin footballs.
“When inexperienced and untrained individuals go barging about in forests and swamps on a macho mission to kill, things don’t end well,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter to host committee chairman Rodney Barreto. “By glorifying the slaughter of pythons, the Super Bowl Host Committee — and by extension, the NFL — risks upsetting animal-friendly fans and diverting attention away from a fabulous sport that so many enjoy and onto the disrespectful treatment of reptiles.”
In a response to the host committee’s board, Barreto noted the terrible impact the python has had on the Everglades. While he said he had great respect for the pythons, he said they had to be removed to protect Florida’s native animals.
“We are surprised about PETA’s concern for ‘upsetting’ the ‘animal-friendly fans’ who sit in leather chairs and watch the cowhide ‘pigskin’ get passed around at every NFL game,” he wrote.
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The fun part of the Python Bowl is reading the comments from the readers from the Fox News website:
* -- “Seems to me that they ought to just put a $100 bounty on the head of every Python and there will be people willing to hunt them year-round for a living. It should be cheaper and more effective.”
* -- “The biggest snakes in Florida eat at the KFC and fast food … no deer, racoons, or alligators.”
* -- “Good job, boys … don’t let those things make it to Alabama.”
* -- “Don’t let AOC (congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) know about this … she’ll just tip ‘em off.”
* -- “Sounds like we are losing the battle. Here soon, the pythons will begin weekly human hunts. I fear they will be more successful.”
* -- “Let them start in DC, their native habitat is a swamp.”
* -- “Just 80 … big deal! Have a hunt for snakes on the liberal side of the House of Representatives you could get hundreds
* -- “It was determined that boas won't eat liberals, they think it's because they are so greasy.”
* -- “There's something scary about people who keep snakes as pets. I can't put my finger on it but it's scary.”
* -- “Al Gore invented snakeskin belts and boots.”
* -- “Liberals or snakes, there is no difference, they both destroy the natural order of things no matter where they inhabit.”
* -- “AOC thinks a herpetologist is a doctor for venereal disease.”
* -- “The biggest snake of all is warm and cozy right now in the Oval Office.”
* – “Poor snakes … they are just homeless.”
* -- “They have a home … in Burma.”
* -- “Quit killing these snakes! There must be a logical answer that both sides can agree upon in working to develop a solution. We need talk. Bring these snakes to the table, convince them of the need for intelligent action on their part. Let’s offer them full control of California and New York City.”
* -- “Maybe they’re susceptible to coronavirus.”
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“Never wound a snake. Kill it.” – Harriett Tubman