Florida's ongoing Python Challenge offers hunters $1,000 for the longest one caught, and $1,500 for the most pythons.

But not everybody is happy about the snake-killing effort.

Dr. Kevin Wright, a reptile specialist who grew up in Florida and works in Arizona, said the state should let scientists gather data on the snakes first.

Experts said there could be as many as 150,000 invasive pythons in the Everglades, but Wright said feral dogs, cats and hogs do more damage than pythons, and he's not happy with Florida letting amateurs go out and hunt the snakes.

"I think the better approach is to put the money into research to better identify where they are and what their actual biology is, and then a better recommendation can be made how to manage them," said Wright. "It may be as simple as looking at how we manage the environment differently with how we flood canals and what's around."

Wright said scientists may also be able to just sterilize the snakes, since one female can lay between 50 and 100 eggs.

When we asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about this, a spokeswoman said this hunt is only one tool the state is using in its ongoing effort to educate people about the detrimental environmental impact of any non-native animal.

The spokeswoman also said Florida has a Pet Amnesty Program for people who want to give their non-native animals to another, responsible exotic pet owner.

As of Tuesday, 37 pythons have been killed in the Everglades alone since the statewide competition began Jan. 12. The hunt runs through Feb. 10.

University of Florida researchers do examine each snake, hoping to learn more about the elusive species that's considered a menace to Florida's fragile ecosystem.

No one knows for sure how many pythons live in South Florida. A tally of 37 may seem low, but researchers said the number reflects how hard it is to spot pythons in the swamps.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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