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article imageVacationing family find unwelcome guest at camp site

By Greta McClain     Dec 28, 2012 in Environment
Everglades - In what could have been a bizarre scene from the Chevy Chase movie "Christmas Vacation", a family vacationing at the Everglades National Park found a very unwelcome guest at their camp site.
Richard Blount and his family were enjoying a leisurely picnic on Wednesday when something in the grass caught their eye. The "something" turned out to be a 17-foot Burmese python. The family notified park rangers who responded and shot the colossal snake with a shotgun.
Native to the jungles and grassy marshes of Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons are best known in the United States for being the exotic snake of choice among many reptile owners. Reaching lengths as long as 23-feet and weighing up to 200 pounds, the snakes generally have a docile disposition. It is not uncommon to hear of them attacking their owners however, sometimes with deadly consequences according to National Geographic.
Florida's growing python population has been a problem over the last several years. According to the National Park Service. More than 1,800 pythons have been removed from the Everglades Nation Park and surrounding areas over the past 10 years. Park officials believe that number is just a fraction of the number of pythons actually living in the park.
Officials in the area say the pythons have devastated the rabbit, fox, opossum and bobcat populations. In 2006, wildlife researchers with the South Florida Natural Resources Center found a 13-foot Burmese python dead in the Everglades Nation Park after it tried to eat a 6-foot-long American alligator.
Larger pythons are capable of successfully consuming large native predators in the Everglades.
Larger pythons are capable of successfully consuming large native predators in the Everglades.
National Park Service/Michael Barron
To address the problem, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have announced the 2013 Python Challenge.
The month long program, which begins January 12, 2013, allows both Florida’s python permit holders and the general public to harvest as many pythons as possible. Kristen Sommers, head of the FWC’s Exotic Species Coordination Section, told reporters:
“The FWC is encouraging the public to get involved in helping us remove Burmese pythons from public lands in south Florida. We hope to motivate more people to find and harvest these large, invasive snakes. The Python Challenge gives people a chance to sign up for a competition to see who can catch the longest or the most pythons."
The person who harvests the most Burmese pythons in the general competition and the python permit holders competition will be awarded a $1,500 Grand Prize. Whoever captures the largest python in both competitions will win $1,000.
More about Snake, Python, Burmese python, Florida, Everglades
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