The first-ever public python hunting season wrapped up in Florida last month: Dozens of Floridians tooled around the state in their pick-ups, looking for oversized pet snakes which have escaped into the Everglades. Python hunting is our new national pastime.
The Python hunting season—which lasted from March 8th to April 17—was the latest effort by Florida Fish and Wildlife authorities to deal with the Everglades' truly terrifying Burmese Python infestation. This infestation is itself the result of a truly American brand of stupidity: Which is, buying absurd pets that one knows one can never hope to take care of. In a New Yorker article, an expert asked, by way of illustrating how poorly suited pythons are to being pets:
Do you want a snake that may grow more than twenty feet long, weigh two hundred pounds, urinate and defecate like a horse, live more than twenty-five years, and for whom you will have to provide mice, rats and eventually rabbits?
You had us at "defecate like a horse!" And so, in the early 90s everyone in Florida who either was or fancied themselves a cocaine dealer started buying these Burmese Pythons. Then they kept them in the spare bath tub until Hurricane Andrew destroyed their house and flung the animals into the Everglades, where they thrived. Then a toddler was killed by a her parents' pet Burmese Python last year, which made everyone aware of the ecological impact these snakes have been having for decades. (If only global warming would kill a few toddlers.)
Now, people like Bob Freer—a python hunter profiled in today's New York Times'—get to hunt them for sport! And if some random housewife in fly-over country counts as "Real America' then these python hunters are, like, Real America in I-Max 3-D.
Here's how you hunt pythons: First, you buy a special $26 permit, which allows you to hunt them on state land. Then, you may want to attend a special python-hunting workshop, where state-employed hunters teach you important tips like the fact that the first thing pythons do when captured is empty their bowels (see video). Wait until the weather is right: Pythons are either most active in cold weather or warm weather (the Miami Herald says Hot; the Daily Beast says cool).
Then you drive your truck up and down roads in the Everglades until you see the distinctive sheen of a python lying in a culvert. (In the Times article, they go hunting in an abandoned rocket-testing site.) You exit your truck. The law says you must kill the python when you capture it, and the method of dispatch varies: If you are a wimp, you may shoot it with a rifle. Wimp. If you a real man, you sneak up on the snake and wrangle it into a bag. A Daily Beast reporter witnessed one of these hardcore guys killing the snake by "Lopping off its head with his knife and penetrating the brain and spinal cord with a rod." So, you can do that if you want to really show the python who's boss.
Then you may eat the python, provided you sell it first to a licensed meat processor. Chowhound recommends a marinade of "soy sauce, orange juice concentrate, scallions, ginger, and honey". We recommend not eating it, because tests have shown that many burmese pythons in the Everglades are contimnated with mercury. Instead, you should sell the snake to All American Gators in Hallandale, Beach, FL. They will buy it for $5/foot and make a beautiful pair of snakeskin pants out of it that you might give to your wife for your wedding anniversary. Or maybe just hang it on the wall, and every time your daughter brings a boy over point to it and say "See that? Killed that python with my bare hands."
So, now you know everything you need to know for next year's python hunt! Unfortunately, the six-week season this year led to zero python captures—probably because it was so cold in Florida this year. (State hunters have removed over 1,000 pythons since 2000.) However, global warming is real. And, according to a estimates in the New Yorker article, global warming could make New York a suitable environment for pythons by 2100. By that time we need to have a phalanx of trained python hunters ready to protect us. As python hunter Bob Hill told the Miami Herald (all python hunters are named Bob, apparently): "There's really no predator, other than the occasional alligator. Sometimes the gator wins, sometimes the snake wins."
Projected 2100 Python Range, Courtesy of USGS: