Outdoorswoman Journal: Solo Travel Girl is Joining the 2016 Python Challenge

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Exotic Python Found in Everglades National Park in 2007

Exotic Burmese Python Found in Everglades National Park in 2007

Look out world. Solo Travel Girl is joining the 2016 Python Challenge and becoming a snake huntress! Yup, I’m serious. I mean, why not? Life’s too short not to try something new, right? In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

And handling snakes is something that kinda scares me.  So does doing something different and out of my comfort zone. Throw in a cash incentive and I can quickly toss my fears aside and jump in head first.

Why Am I Turning into a Snake Huntress? Education
So, I’ll be registering for the 2016 Python Challenge, presented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. The Challenge’s goal is to get more people involved in invasive species removal – specifically Burmese pythons – in the Everglades ecosystem. Like the inaugural 2013 Python Challenge, there will be cash prizes but I can’t seem to find what those prizes are. Honestly, I’m doing it for the bragging rights.

Do you have what it takes to participate in Florida's 2016 Python Challenge?

Do you have what it takes to participate in Florida’s 2016 Python Challenge?

YES! I’m dang serious about this. I’ve already registered for a hands-on educational training class being held later this month in Big Cypress National Preserve. I’ve never done anything like this and thought about documenting it through video and began storyboarding out five, 5 – 10 minute segments for a YouTube series, but, seeing that it would probably take money to have someone follow me and film me, I’ll probably end up documenting it with photos, sharing on social media and blogging about it.

UNLESS, someone steps forward willing to tag along with me on this potentially crazy journey. Anyone? Anyone?  I thought about crowd-source funding this, like through GoFundMe.com, but I hate asking people for money. My “documentary” would be entertaining from the perspective of a 45-year-old woman, who’s afraid of the snakes in her garage because she’s not sure if they’re venomous, wears her pearls and lipstick into the field on the hunt for Burmese pythons.

Primarily, the documentary would be educational to remind people why releasing exotic animals into the wild is bad as well as the ecological destruction these snakes and other exotics have done. Plus, these captured snakes end up on some farm playing in the grass. Not really. They’re euthanized.

Me, the Everglades and Snakes
Having spent several years living in Flamingo in Everglades National Park, I thought I’d have an advantage. Back in the late ’90s, early ’00s, I remember one night driving back to Flamingo on that long, dark road and running over what we thought was a 9-foot rattlesnake. It was sturdy like a tree limb. Reflecting, it was probably a python. But, it doesn’t look as though the park is included in the participating removal areas.

In 2007, some employees of the park management company in Flamingo (and I know who you are in case you’re reading this!) found a 10-foot Burmese python along the road one night and decided to keep it as a pet in their dorm room. My former husband (and general manager of Flamingo Lodge until he passed away in 2008) told me story of how the snake was kept in a false bottom of a dresser and how he told National Park Service law enforcement if they needed to shoot it, to not shoot a hole in the dorm. NPS law enforcement scolded the employees and told them how dangerous it was to keep the reptile. They said it could have easily strangled them while they slept.

I can handle snakes. This is me with a rat snake, May 2015.

I can handle snakes. This is me with a rat snake, May 2015.

More about the 2016 Python Challenge
In 2013, more than 1,600 people participated in the nearly month-long Python Challenge and trekked more than a million acres of the Everglades ecosystem. Total number of Burmese pythons harvested? Sixty-eight. The most collected by a single competitor was 18. I’m hoping for one.

Participants can register as individuals or as a team. I’d be interested in teaming up with someone but I’m also comfortable going solo. Learn more about the Python Challenge including registration and rules by visiting PythonChallenge.org.

On social media I’ll be using #STGPythonChallenge

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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