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‘Python challenge’ draws hundreds

Published: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. – An armed mob set out into the Florida Everglades on Saturday to flush out a scaly invader.

It sounds like the second act of a sci-fi horror flick but, really, it’s pretty much Florida’s plan for dealing with an infestation of Burmese pythons that are eating their way through a fragile ecosystem.

Almost 800 people signed up for the monthlong “Python Challenge” that started Saturday. The vast majority – 749 – are members of the general public who lack the permits usually required to harvest pythons on public lands.

“We feel like anybody can get out in the Everglades and figure out how to try and find these things,” said Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The state is offering cash prizes to whoever brings in the longest python and whoever bags the most pythons by midnight Feb. 10.

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