Python and a brew, anyone? That might just become a happy-hour special in Florida if it turns out the snakes are safe enough to eat. But state officials first have to figure out whether Florida pythons contain too much mercury, CNN reports. "We would like to use consumption as another way to encourage people to remove pythons in Florida if the meat is safe to eat," a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rep tells the Sun-Sentinel in an email. "The study will help ensure that is safe." After all, the nonvenomous constrictors are considered a risk to south Florida's wildlife. Introduced to the Everglades in the 1980s—likely as released or escaped pets—their numbers have boomed and left officials scrambling to constrain them.
Now the fish and wildlife commission is working with the Florida Department of Health to determine pythons' mercury levels, but one scientist isn't hopeful: "Mercury is a natural occurring element in the environment and it is high in the Everglades," he says. "We expect the results are going to discourage the public from consuming pythons." On the upside, python hunter Donna Kalil says she eats some smaller pythons (about 7 feet long) after testing them for mercury. Python has "the texture of fish, but ... tastes more like chicken," she says. "I'm going to say pork. More like a pork chop maybe." A Python Elimination Program, which runs alongside the mercury study, has removed 6,000 pythons from the Everglades so far. (One python had "totally weird" eggs.)