It's Not Too Late to Join Florida's '2013 Python Challenge'S

If you have always dreamed of killing giant snakes but found yourself hampered by a lack of funds, worry no more: Florida state officials are ready to pay anyone willing to help rid them of wild Burmese pythons, no snake hunting experience needed.

More than 700 people from 32 states and Canada plan to kill wild Burmese pythons in south Florida. Called the 2013 Python Challenge, a state-sponsored 30-day hunt starts today with a kickoff in Fort Lauderdale.

700 is a lot of people: it feels like a featureless mob. I can't humanize it. Who's the all-American face of the snake hunters?

Andres Schabelman is not the kind of guy you expect to see roaming the Everglades in search of a giant, slithering beast that's nearly as long as a stretch limo.

He's 28, holds a graduate degree in public policy from Harvard, lives in the progressive city of San Francisco and even works for a fancy Internet start-up - Airbnb.

"I literally have never done anything like python hunting in my life," Schabelman said Thursday from his home in California. "In New Orleans, I used to hunt and fished a lot, but nothing like this."

Oh, he'll do nicely. What led him to make the long journey east, machete in hand?

Schabelman said he and three friends from Harvard decided to take a stab at python hunting after they realized Martin Luther King, Jr. Day would fall in the middle of the hunt and allow them a three-day hunt.

What better way to honor the legacy of Dr. King, sworn enemy of all snakes and tireless python-slayer in his own right?

Burmese pythons first became a problem in the 1980s, after Floridians who had apparently purchased them as pets decided "nah, we're good, snake-wise" and dropped them blithely off in the Everglades. Once the realization of their new and terrible freedom struck them, the snakes proceeded to eat everything in the wild before returning to take revenge upon their former owners by devouring "cats [and] small dogs." Also:

Burmese pythons grow to about 25 feet and can weigh more than 200 pounds. They eat adult deer in one long, icky gulp.

While there is an entry fee of $25, the person who kills the most snakes gets $1500 and the person who kills the longest snake gets $1000. No word on what happens to the hunter who ties all his or her snakes together into a knotted, writhing snake-ball and builds a snake castle in the python-ridden swamps, but there's a first time for everything, even in Florida.

[Image via AP]