But Michael Dorcas, a herpetology researcher, author of I nvasive Pythons in the United States and an expert in these stealthy exotics, suggested Monday that the marketplace may seem a little bare. “The one thing I know about these snakes,” said Dorcas, who knows everything about these snakes, “is that they’re very difficult to find.” Dorcas said that Burmese pythons are so secretive and so well camouflaged, “we’ve walked right past a 15-foot python without seeing it.”
He said the snakes range across thousands of square kilometers of southern Florida, most of that habitat away from roads and canals and nearly inaccessible to most hunters. “Probably, some pythons will be removed, but the damage to the overall population will be minimal.”
Dorcas worries more about unintended consequences to other populations, including humans. The Sun-Sentinel reported that hunters from 17 states have signed up for the month-long python chase. They’ll be coming into unfamiliar terrain, laden with poisonous native snakes, underwater limestone holes and other local hazards. The required 30-minute online training course seems a bit inadequate.
Dorcas is more worried about native snakes, likely to be scarfed up by frustrated python hunters, ready to blast away at any reticulated reptile that happens their way. Saturday could be a very bad day to be a brown water snake caught out without proper identification.
Ironically, the Rick Scott Python Challenge comes the same year that the famous Rattlesnake Roundup in Claxton, Ga., immortalized in the Harry Crews novel Feast of Snakes, stopped rounding up snakes. Wildlife officials noticed that the hunters had been pouring kerosene down tortoise burrows, setting them alight and catching the panicked snakes as they escaped. Several hundred other species also resided in those burned-out turtle abodes. Meanwhile, the Eastern rattlesnake has neared extinction. So this year, the roundup became a non-lethal wildlife celebration.
Texans, of course, don’t care much about biodiversity and the relative value of venomous native snakes. Rattlesnake hunts persist, guilt free. Maybe some of the promotional ideas that make these Texas hunts so damn successful might be worth emulating in python-plagued Florida. For instance, in Brownsville, home of the Brownsville Rattlesnake Roundup, locals distinguish themselves from the crazies in Sweetwater by devouring the still-beating hearts of freshly killed rattlesnakes. “They’re little-bitty. You don’t really chew them up. You just put them in your mouth and swallow them,” a festival organizer explained to BigCountry.com, an Abilene, Texas, news website.
A first-time taster compared rattlesnake heart to “eating a slug….. It sure doesn’t taste like chicken.”
Who knows if the still-beating heart of a Burmese python heart in South Florida would have the same gourmet appeal as a west Texas rattlesnake? No, what we need is a queen, Miss Python Challenge 2013.
With a little luck, she’ll be as adept at public relations and reptile dissection as Miss Snake Charmer Laney Wallace, who didn’t slither away from her queenly duties. “You have to make sure you don’t pop the bladder,” she warned. “That’s a huge mess.”