Three years after a month-long hunt involving 1,600 hunters bagged a grand total of 68 pythons, Florida is bringing back the "Python Challenge." The hunt, part of efforts to get rid of the invasive species that is squeezing native wildlife like opossums out of the Everglades, kicks off on Saturday and officials say more than 600 people have signed up, CNN reports. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says cash prizes will go to the hunter who captures or kills the most Burmese pythons and to the hunter that comes back with the longest one. Officials say the last hunt provided a lot of valuable data, although the snakes are too good at hiding for them to be easy prey for amateur hunters.
Nick Wiley, the commission's executive director, tells the Tampa Bay Times that he realizes the event is unlikely to remove large numbers of snakes. "But any pythons that are removed will be helpful, and it reinforces the message that we need all hands on deck to help remove pythons from the Everglades while we earnestly seek more effective measures," he says. The Times notes that the snakes are such a threat to native wildlife that even PETA hasn't suggested that the pythons be captured alive. Instead, the organization has asked officials to ban decapitation and require snakes to be shot in the head, destroying the brain for an instant kill. (Read more Florida stories.)