The Python Challenge: Let’s Look at the Numbers

By Erika N. Chen-Walsh

Herp Alliance blogged yesterday about the 2013 Florida Python Challenge that has been underway since January 12, 2013 and lasts until February 10th.  In the first two weeks of this event, more than 1,000 hunters had killed exactly 30 snakes, a very underwhelming result for those who speciously claim that there are as many as 150,000 Burmese pythons living wild in the Florida Everglades.  (With such a grandiose population, how come the army of 1,000 hunters cannot find them?)

Let’s take a look at the numbers.  Thirty snakes have been killed in 14 days.  This equates to 2.14 snakes per day.  Assuming that there are exactly 1,000 hunters in the Challenge, this means that each day, they have a 0.2% chance per day of killing a Burmese python wild in the Everglades.

If the grossly exaggerated “problem” of 150,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades were correct, at the current kill rate, it would take these 1,000 hunters, working every single day, 192 years to kill them all, if they existed.

The numbers do not add up.  The numbers are not there because the pythons are not there.  As Andrew Wyatt testified before the US House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs on November 29, 2012:

The population of pythons peaked in summer 2009. This was followed quickly by a population crash in the winters of 2009 and 2010.The decline in python numbers since the summer 2009 peak have been significant. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission believes 30-50 percent of the remaining wild Burmese python population died in January and February 2010.

The “problem” of Burmese pythons in the Everglades has been exaggerated and embellished by the Animal Rights industry and political propaganda for ulterior motives.

As of 2009, over 192 invasive animal species (not including insects) have made their home in the Everglades (Ferriter et al., 2009).

feral catPythons tend to get more headlines than other species of animals because of animus toward snakes by the general public, animus that is fomented and encouraged by groups such as HSUS.  Seemingly innocuous animals like the island apple snail and Asiatic clam may be causing more damage to to the ecosystem of the Everglades.  Feral (and domestic) cats are one of the most detrimental invasive species in the Everglades (and elsewhere), yet there is no widespread call to outlaw cats.

This is not a problem that is limited to large constrictor owners, keepers and breeders.  If propaganda and embellished hysteria in the absence of factual data can fuel arms of the State and Federal Government to seek to limit private property rights, the ownership of all species of animals, both domestic and exotic is in jeopardy.

The time to act is now, and the community of reptile and amphibian breeders must come together in a cohesive, organized voice before there is nothing left for us to talk about.

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