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Python hunt ends with modest kill

Reports as of Friday were that 50 Burmese pythons had been captured during the monthlong chase that ended at midnight Saturday, and Sunday evening, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said he wasn’t aware that the total had increased.

He called ridding the Everglades of any of the hugely invasive predators that have caused havoc with the ecosystem, and which have been seen challenging top-of-the-food-chain alligators for supremacy, nothing short of fantastic.

“We’ll have a better handle on the exact numbers by late Monday or Tuesday,” Pino said. “But undoubtedly for us, it’s a complete success. You can argue it’s not a huge number, but its 50 pythons not in the ecosystem causing havoc.”

Hunters had to register with the wildlife commission, take a quick online course, and follow specific humane rules the commission determined were best fit to kill the Southeast Asian natives that can grow nearly 20 feet long. The pythons can be legally killed only by a gunshot to the head or by beheading with a machete.

No one knows how the Burmese python made its way to South Florida, but it has been around for decades, and multiplying at an alarming rate.

It’s not uncommon to find females carrying dozens of eggs. The largest python caught to date was 17.5 feet long and weighed 164 pounds, though 6 to 9 feet is more typical in the Everglades.

Scientists estimate there are tens of thousands of the pythons in the wild. Though they are large, they are extremely difficult to spot, often hiding among weeds or in dark water.

Last year the Obama administration banned the import of four species of constrictor, including the Burmese pythons. It is also illegal to keep them as pets unless you can produce paperwork showing you had the creature before July 2010.

Pino said by Monday night his agency should have a better feel for the totals, but, he said, that really doesn’t matter.

“The data we’ll get will be unbelievable,” he said.

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