By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida | Thu Jan 10, 2013
(Reuters) - A python hunting competition starting on Saturday is drawing hundreds of amateurs armed with clubs, machetes and guns to the Florida Everglades, where captured Burmese pythons have exceeded the length of minivans and weighed as much as grown men.
... "these idiots will be firing guns all over the place."
Python Challenge 2013, a month-long event sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is open to hunters and non-hunters alike.
But the idea of luring weapon-wielding amateurs into the harsh environment of the Everglades has raised some alarms.
Participants pay a $25 entry fee and take an online training course, which consists mostly of looking at photographs of both the targeted pythons and protected native snakes to learn the difference.
The state wildlife agency is offering prizes of $1,500 for the most pythons captured and $1,000 for the longest python.
A Burmese python found in Florida last year set records as the largest ever captured in the state at 17-feet, 7-inches (5.4 meters). The snake weighed nearly 165 pounds (75 kg).
Shawn Heflick, star of the National Geographic "Wild" television show "Python Hunters," told Reuters that despite the formidable size of the snakes, the swamp itself, with its alligators, crocodiles and venomous snakes, to pose a greater threat to the contestants.
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Florida python hunting contest draws hundreds | Reuters