PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. (WPBF) – This year’s python hunting season in Florida opens Saturday — and there are some big cash prizes up for grabs.
In fact, the person who catches the most snakes gets $1500.
Burmese pythons are considered one of the largest snakes in the world. And some experts believe the massive creatures are endangering the Florida Everglades’ delicate ecosystem. [READ MORE: Florida wildlife officials introduce python killing challenge]
In fact, a 17-foot snake was found dead after it burst open trying to eat a huge alligator at Everglades National Park eight years ago.
As a result, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is holding the “Python Challenge” as a way for hunters to reduce the population of the non-native species.
“The Burmese python has been able to establish a breeding population in the Everglades ecosystem,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Carli Segelson said. “This is something we feel is important that we get out there and we control and manage.”
More than 500 people have signed up and paid the $25 fee for the month-long hunt.
But a spokeswoman for PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is sounding the alarm about the way some of the snake have been killed.
In a letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, PETA urged hunters to not behead the animals, but follow procedures that ensure the animal will not suffer.
“Reptiles have slow metabolisms which means that when they are beheaded they can suffer up to an hour before they actually die,” PETA’s Ashley Byrn said. “So PETA is asking if this hunt is to going forward that they limit the ways pythons can be killed to ways where the brain is destroyed immediately so that they do not suffer.”
However, Segelson said their website explains to hunters the preferred ways to kill the snakes: from captive bolt guns and higher caliber firearms.
“And that’s why we have right in our rules that people would need to ethically and humanely dispatch these snakes so there is no animal cruelty,” Segelson said.