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Dispute continues over pythonsPosted Thursday, January 24, 2013, at 7:36 AM
Snake handler "Rick" shows off one of his pythons and shares his views in opposing the great "Python Challenge." Rick informed me that the State required him to post the "Dangerous Reptiles" signs...
According to some unconfirmed reports, there are 350,000 of the slithery reptiles occupying the Florida swamps...however, no one has enlightened us with how they have arrived at this figure. I am not aware of any group that has been sent out into the Glades to count snakes...
The rewards for success in this month-long python hunt are significant. (thus explaining the number of participants) A total of $5,000 in prize money is being offered for the longest and the most snakes killed.
The contest started on Jan. 13, 2013 and ends on Feb. 10, 2013. So far, 29 snakes have been killed.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, the Burmese python is an invasive species which is wreaking havoc on the mammals and birds native to the Everglades. The State of Florida has reportedly spent $6 million since 2005 to eradicate the python. This year's massive python hunt is only the latest attempt to deal with the issue.
Since first beginning the python research, this traveling reporter has discovered that not all Everglades residents agree with the State of Florida's current assessment of the python problem.
A recent trip to the Everglades revealed some deep divisions between the official state position and that of the local, long-time residents of this wild region of mangrove swamps.
A snake handler, known only as "Rick," pointed out several flaws in the state's theory about what is going on in the Everglades.
"The snakes are not the problem," said this long-time resident of the swamps. "A snake's metabolism is very slow." He points to his collection of slithery creatures in cages around the compound.
"These snakes eat only once every few months," Rick explains. "A cougar, otherwise known as a 'Florida panther,' has to eat the equivalent of a deer a week. The panther population has been increasing over the years--thanks to the State's re-population program. The panther is the problem--not the python."
According to Rick and his companions, the "Python Challenge" is nothing more than a diversion to take attention off the panther problem, and--more seriously--they charge that it is a money-making scheme on the part of the State of Florida.
These local residents of the Everglades also point out another problem with the python hunt: The elusive snakes are practically impossible to find.
One has to wonder about the probable success of a hunt in which 1,000 hunters have bagged only 29 snakes.
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.