Imagine this: You’re driving along the outskirts of a nature preserve, and suddenly you spot something slithering across the ground. But, it’s not something small that’s slithering, it’s actually an 18-foot, 104-pound snake.
A trio of python hunters found the snake last week on Highway 41 near Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida.
“Immediately as we spotted it we all screamed and jumped out of the car,” said Josh Laquis, a python hunter and student at Rollins College in Winter Park, near Orlando. “Steve grabbed the head of the snake, Jake grabbed the tail, I grabbed the body,” he said, referring to the other two guys who were with him.
Laquis said it took the group over two hours of driving before they found the snake.
Ironically, hundreds of snake hunters are in Florida participating in the so-called “Python Challenge,” a 10-day competition where people can hunt Burmese pythons – considered an invasive species in Florida – and compete for thousands of dollars in prizes for the “most” or “longest” python caught and killed.
Laquis said he was unaware of the challenge.
“I’m really into extreme sports – skydiving, base jumping, paragliding – anything that could give me a scare. When I heard they had such a big animal in Florida, I already enjoyed capturing snakes, even if they are a lot smaller, I thought that was something that could be exciting,” he said.
Burmese pythons are considered a danger to the ecosystem and wildlife that live in the Everglades. The challenge runs until Aug. 14, though hunters can get permits to hunt pythons year-round.
The top prize for both novice and professional hunters is $2,500 for the most Burmese pythons hunted.
Since 2000, more than 17,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades ecosystem, FOX 35 previously reported.