If you assume the alligator is the king of the heap when it comes to Everglades predators, you could be wrong at this point. "I found alligators in them," says Donna Kalil. The 57-year-old python elimination specialist for the South Florida Water Management District is talking about Burmese pythons, which have invaded the Everglades in recent decades, to the peril of mammals, birds, fish, and—yes, even creatures as big as deer and alligators. In a lengthy piece for Outside Online, Rebecca Renner takes a look at the annual effort to do away with some of them—Florida's Python Bowl—and the hunters who turned out for the 10-day event put on by the state this year. Kalil was one. Daniel Moniz was another. The 26-year-old had been the winner in 2016, with 13 snakes to his name. He wouldn't come close to that count in 2020.
The 561 participants would catch just 80. That's a paltry number when stacked against USGS estimates, which put the potential number of pythons in South Florida as high as in the hundreds of thousands. And as they're wreaking havoc in the Everglades ecosystem, human intervention is needed. "Hunts are the best solution at the moment," writes Renner, even with the low counts of snakes killed. A rep for the water management district says kill numbers aren't the most important thing. "The key is really to get the word out as to the devastation that the python has caused in the Everglades." And the state is making strides to that end, writes Renner, having this year rebranded the event to align it with the Super Bowl, which was played in Miami and saw python-skin footballs handed out to VIP guests. (Read the full story for much more.)