The 2013 Python Challenge, which begins Saturday, has attracted participants and media interest from around the United States for a monthlong event that will feature prizes of $1,000 for catching the longest snakes and $1,500 for catching the most.
Participants do not need hunting licenses, unless they're under 18, or have experience with snakes. The only required training can be done online. Given those slender requirements, some have questioned the wisdom of encouraging amateurs with firearms, particularly non-hunters, to take on pythons in the wild.
"Going out into the bush in Florida is a potentially dangerous thing to do," said Stuart Pimm, a prominent Everglades scientist who is professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. "This is very, very rough terrain. Getting stuck out there without enough water could be a life-terminating experience."
But assuming people use caution, he said, they could kill enough of the giant snakes to help the Everglades.