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Python Challenge Underlines Threat of Invasive Species to Florida

February 19, 2013

Florida’s python challenge wrapped up Saturday with an event at Zoo Miami where the winners received cash awards. About 1,600 registered hunters from 38 states and Canada managed to harvest 68 pythons. The team eventually cited for the bagging the biggest snake boasted one that exceeded 11 feet.

Python Challenge

Staff members from FDACS-DPI manned a tent promoting the giant African land snail eradication program and the “Don’t Pack a Pest” Traveler’s Program at the Zoo Miami event. (Photo courtesy of Mark Fagan)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission organized the hunt to remove pythons from the environmentally sensitive Everglades and to raise awareness about the dangers posed by exotic species invading the state. The hunt generated a media buzz, nationally and internationally.

The Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry (FDACS-DPI) was among the organizations setting up displays at the zoo (see photo). Staff members were available to discuss the giant African land snail (GALS) eradication campaign and the “Don’t Pack a Pest” traveler’s program. Teams from FDACS-DPI have been working since September 2011 to eradicate the snail from Miami-Dade and, with the cooperation of homeowners in the county, have captured more than 110,000 of them. However, because this invasive snail reproduces rapidly and lives up to nine years, the battle to eradicate it will be going on for some time.

The “Don’t Pack a Pest” traveler’s program is a joint effort of FDACS, USDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Its goal is to increase travelers’ awareness of the importance of declaring agricultural items carried in their luggage. The program has a presence at major international airports in the U.S. and Jamaica, at the Port Everglades and Miami cruise terminals and on board American Airlines planes on the NBC Universal program.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is comprised of 13 divisions including Plant Industry, Animal Industry and Agricultural Law Enforcement. It safeguards the public and supports Florida’s agricultural economy and works to detect, intercept and control animal, plant and honey bee pests and diseases which threaten the state’s agricultural resources, economy and public health. The department is also a major contributor to efforts to keep exotic invasive species out of the state.

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