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Only 21 pythons caught in Fla. Challenge

UPI News Service, 01/21/2013 

Pythons are thought to be slithering around southern Florida like crazy but so far a contest to catch them has produced a paltry 21 of the invasive snakes.

The first week of the state's 2013 Python Challenge ended Friday with fewer than two dozen Burmese pythons received by the University of Florida even though 777 people signed up.

Wildlife experts say Burmese pythons are a threat to the Everglades ecosystem and are looking to whittle down their population, thought to number in the thousands on state lands alone.

Burmese pythons, native to Asia, are constrictors that can grow to 26 feet long and are known to be voracious predators of mammals, birds and reptiles. That diet makes it hard on the state's native predators such as foxes and bobcats.

The non-venomous Burmese pythons have been reported in extreme south Florida since the 1980s, and now are established mainly within the bounds of Everglades National Park.

The python-catching event runs through Feb. 10. The person who kills the most Burmese pythons by that date will receive a check for $1,500.

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