If visitors to a South Florida picnic area were bothered by ants, those worries surely passed the moment a 17-foot Burmese python slithered onto the grounds. The enormous snake was shot and killed after the sighting, by a family visiting from Arkansas, and the raw footage was supplied to CNN.
At 17 feet, the python was just shy of the Florida record: a 17-foot, 7-inch specimen captured last year.
The python hunt referred to in the CNN report is the “2013 Python Challenge,” a month-long hunt that kicks off Jan. 12. The inaugural program, in which hunters armed with firearms and machetes will kill as many pythons as they can, is an attempt to dent the population of the invasive reptiles, which threaten native wildlife.
Burmese pythons, which prey on small mammals, birds, and even small alligators, are prolific breeders and prevalent throughout the Everglades. They’re believed to have been introduced to Florida, initially, by pet owners who turned the snakes loose when they outgrew their pens.
Burmese pythons can no longer be acquired as pets in Florida, and it’s illegal to transport the reptiles across state lines.