Pythons are not animals to be messed with it. They are big. They are scary. They are quite capable of eating a small human. Do you know what else fits these categories? Lions, great white sharks, velociraptors and oversized zombies – all creatures I consider incredibly stupid to hunt.
But unlike the others I just mentioned, pythons are abundant throughout Florida's interior – and as one might guess – they are eating just about everything that moves down there.
According to a CNN story:
Earlier this year, researchers at Virginia Tech University, Davidson College and the U.S. Geological Survey reported that populations of rabbits and foxes have disappeared and numbers of raccoons, opossums and bobcats have dropped as much as 99%.
Yes, you read that correctly. These things eat bobcats. (I was going to insert a Charlotte Bobcats joke here, but then realized I can't name a single player on their team.)
So, Florida – in all its infinite wisdom – decided something must be done about this problem. Their answer: Give Floridians with guns and machetes a chance to win money by hunting pythons in what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is calling the 2013 Python Challenge.
Again, let's turn to the CNN story:
A grand prize of $1,500 will be awarded to the person who kills the most pythons, and $1,000 will go to the person who bags the longest one. According to the rules, road kill will not be eligible. Participants will pay a $25 registration fee and complete an online training course. The training focuses on safety while hunting pythons.
This is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. Let's go through the reasons why:
1. Pythons can grow up to 19 feet long and are capable of killing and eating people:
And Florida wants people to trek out to the Everglades and hunt these things. Have they not seen Python, starring acting greats Casper Van Dien and Jenny McCarthy? These are not creatures you want to mess with. They've been know to attack and sometimes eat alligators!
2. Seriously, look at this picture:
3. The cobra effect:
Incentives – such as "$1,500 will be awarded to the person who kills the most pythons" – have a way of becoming perverse incentives. There's even a name for this – the cobra effect – named after an incident in which the British government offered a bounty for killed cobras in India. Cobra entrepreneurs then started breeding them for more money. Figuring this out, the British stopped the program. The cobra entrepreneurs then released their now worthless cobras back into the wild. The end result: more cobras. Now, while it might cost more than the $1,500 award to breed enough pythons to win, we're also talking about people willing to attack a huge and potentially bitey snake. I'm not necessarily counting on their math skills.
4. The tale of the catfish and the pigeon:
It's amazing how animals can adapt to survive and thrive in new environments. A recent example of this is a story out of France in which catfish have learned how to hunt pigeons. Don't believe me? Watch this:
Holy cow! That catfish just ate a pigeon! Now, let's introduce more humans into the python's new environment in the Everglades. And these are potentially hungry pythons who are depleting their own food sources. I'll let your imaginations do the rest.
5. You know who lives in Florida, right?
Let's look at some of the people from Florida who have been in the news this year. George Zimmerman. Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, a teacher whose school said she made kids wear a dog's "cone of shame." Casey Anthony. This guy. And Rudy Eugene, who police killed while he was trying to eat another man's face. Not everybody in Florida is crazy. About half of my family lives there and – for the most part – they're all normal people. But there's just enough crazies there where I don't think it's a good idea to be promoting python hunting with guns and machetes. Just saying.
• Going for Gusto is a blog by Joe Grace. Columns, videos, lists and quick thoughts posted throughout the week. Send questions, comments and blog ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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