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Florida python hunts to be a year-round effort

December 4, 2009 |  4:22 pm

A 12-foot Burmese python that was captured in the backyard of a home in Florida.

Florida wildlife officials have announced that the state-sanctioned hunting of Burmese pythons will be resumed in January and will be a year-round effort.

The four-month pilot hunting program ended in October, with 39 of the invasive species captured.

Snake owners who released pythons when they became too large to manage are believed largely responsible for this troubling phenomenon. The snakes, which are reproducing in the wild, have become a threat to native wildlife.

"We were able to collect some initial data during the first phase of this program that will help us determine the extent of the population on state-managed land," Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a news release.

Applications are required and only qualified applicants will be approved. Florida residency is a must, as is possessing a reptile-of-concern permit plus experience in capturing and handling the snakes and knowledge of euthanizing reptiles.

The constrictors can measure 18 feet long and weigh 160 pounds, and wildlife officials say they could number in the tens of thousands in the South Florida region -- mostly in the Everglades.

"We want to continue allowing experts out there to ensure this exotic species does not spread any farther north in Florida," added Hardin.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: A 12-foot Burmese python that was captured in the backyard of a home in Florida. Credit: Robert Sullivan / AFP/Getty Images