Would you like to make some extra money, and at the same time run the risk of being eaten by a carnivorous reptile the size of a war canoe?
If your answer is yes, I have an exciting opportunity for you. Its called the Python Challenge, and I am not making it up. Its a real event that was dreamed up by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which apparently was concerned that Florida does not seem insane enough to people in normal states.
The Python Challenge is a month-long contest; its purpose, according to the official website (pythonchallenge.org) is to raise public awareness about Burmese pythons.
Q. What do they mean by raise public awareness about?
A. They mean kill.
The contest is open to anybody who registers, pays a $25 fee and takes an online training course; so far about 400 people have signed up. These people have from Jan. 12 through Feb. 10 to go out in the Everglades and raise public awareness on as many pythons as they can. Theres a $1,500 prize for whoever kills the most pythons, a $1,000 prize for whoever kills the longest python, and a $500 prize for whoever kills the python with the best personality.
Im kidding about that last prize, of course. Burmese pythons do not have personalities: All they do is eat and destroy the ecosystem. They are the teenage males of the animal kingdom. Thats why the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to get rid of them.
Be advised, however, that you cannot kill these pythons any old way you want. No, sir: This is an official state-sponsored event, and if there is one word that comes to mind whenever you hear the name Florida, that word is ethics. The Python Challenge guidelines clearly state that you have this is an actual quote an ethical obligation to ensure a Burmese python is killed in a humane manner. That means you cannot kill your python using cruel and inhumane methods such as forcing it to watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo until it commits suicide, or placing it at the entrance to a Boca Raton restaurant just as the Early Bird special begins, where it would be trampled to death in seconds.
So how do you ethically kill a Burmese python? According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, you can use a device called a captive bolt, or you can shoot it in the head with a firearm of a safe, but effective caliber. (Got that? You want your caliber to be safe, but also effective.)
You are also permitted to whack off the pythons head with a machete, provided you do so in an ethical manner. To quote the commission: Make sure your technique results in immediate loss of consciousness and destruction of the Burmese pythons brain. (If you think Im making any of this up, I urge you to go read the Python Challenge guidelines.)
One thing the guidelines are not very specific about is how youre supposed to catch the python in the first place. I happen to have some experience in this area. A few years ago, I captured a snake that somehow got into my office and onto my desk, despite the fact that I live in Coral Gables, where snakes are a clear violation of the zoning code. The technique I used to capture this particular snake was as follows:
1. Make an extremely non-masculine sound such as might be emitted by a recently castrated Teletubby.