Hundreds hunt pythons in Florida wild

8:22 AM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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Allen Schneider is studying for a masters in nonprofit management, but this weekend, he's signed up to be a hired python killer in the Florida Everglades.

"Pythons are extremely extremely good swimmers; that's why I like to work boats," Schneider said.

The area is so overrun with Burmese pythons, officials are letting anyone who pays a $25 fee to kill them in a contest called the Python Challenge.

"We're never going to get rid of them but we want to reduce number as much as humanly possible," Schneider said.

As an incentive, the contest is offering cash prizes - a $1,500 reward for the hunter who catches the most pythons and $1,000 to whoever catches the longest. Nearly 800 people signed up the first day.

"It's kind of scary, and it's a rush," Schneider said.

Nick Gadbois is a biologist-turned-python-hunter who says the contest is good for the environment if the snake doesn't kill you first.

"You know you have to grab this thing that is going to try and turn around and bite you," Gadbois said.

It is enough to give even Indiana Jones the creeps. The snakes could have arrived on a plane, perhaps as a pet, and later turned loose by someone thinking they're doing nature a favor. That's how this uninvited guest - a 17-footer - ended up crashing a family picnic.

"It's putting a lot of pressure a lot of pressure on our native wildlife which is already under pressure from lack of water, climate change and habitat destruction," Kristina Serbesoff-King, with the Nature Conservancy, said.

It turns out the pythons are pretty good at hiding.

"It takes about 100 hours for every one we find. We spend a lot of time out here looking," Schneider said.

For the snake hunters, as darkness set in on the first day of the Python Challenge, the pythons were winning.

(Copyright © 2013 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)

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