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Giant Python Hunt: 400 Sign Up In Florida
At least 400 people have signed up to hunt giant pythons in Florida, after the serpents became a significant threat to native wildlife in the Florida Everglades.
The 2013 Python Challenge, designed to target the feral Burmese constrictors, has lured hunters from across the United States.
The month-long event includes a $1,000 (£620) prize for catching the longest snake and a $1,500 (£930) reward for the biggest haul.
State officials placed the bounty on the Burmese python, to help eradicate the species from the environmentally sensitive region known as the River of Grass.
Residents from 17 US states have signed up for the hunt, which started on Sunday.
Would-be serpent killers do not need hunters' permits unless they are under 18, and many are expected to shoot the snakes instead of bringing them in alive.
Some hunters are using rifles while others use "snake shot" pellet cartridges fired from pistols, which act like miniature shotguns.
Everglades scientist Stuart Pimm is hopeful of success but warned people hunting the predator pythons that the terrain is both tough and dangerous.
"This is a very serious threat indeed," Mr Pimm told the Orlando Sentinel.
"It could radically change the composition of the species that we find in the Everglades, and the Everglades have enough threats without the snakes.
"I think extreme measures are extremely appropriate."
Other experts have warned that indigenous snakes may be killed accidentally by hunters.
University of Tulsa Assistant Professor of Biology Warren Booth, who is also the Science Director of trade body the US Association of Reptile Keepers, described it as a "disaster".
"You've got venomous species, like the eastern diamondback rattlesnake and the cottonmouth," Prof Booth said.
"I think we're going to see native wildlife being killed and a potential human safety issue with people being bitten."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is supervising the hunt, said extra officials would help police the event and offer training on identifying venomous snakes.
The commission said it recommended using a bullet or shotgun blast to the head of serpents.
It warned against decapitating the snakes as it is considered inhumane, because if the brain is not immediately destroyed consciousness can remain for some time afterwards.
what do you think?
Speaking as a pagan - nobody said Mother Nature was compassionate. She is not Jesus or Bhudda. Her deep brutality and violent nature is matched only by her beauty. Being hunted by a superior species is all part of her plan. That's true for our species as well.
Any excuse to use their guns