Wildlife officials in Florida are on the hunt in an effort to curb the growing python population threatening the Everglades and nearby neighborhoods.
According to ABC News, nearly 500 amateur hunters have signed up for a competition that will last one month and is being sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The "2013 Python Challenge" will kick off Jan. 12 in hopes to raise public awareness about the species and the threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.
Officials, as cited by ABC News, estimate that nearly 150,000 Burmese pythons are living in the Florida Everglades and eating up the surrounding wildlife, with some even overflowing into the nearby neighborhoods.
"They're starting to come back into civilization looking for easy food -- our pets and that's typically what they're feeding on: Cats, small dogs," Lt. Scott Mullin of the Miami-Dade Venom One Unit told ABC News.
Mullin went on to tell the news network that he has been making an increasing amount of house calls from people reporting Burmese pythons in their backyards and parks.
"When people call about a python it's a totally different sound on the phone that you can hear it in their voice that they're excited, very nervous, very scared for their pets and their children," Mullin said.
While pythons are native to Southeast Asia, experts, as cited by ABC News, think that residents who couldn't handle them as pets set them loose.
A $1,500 reward will be handed over to the hunter who catches the most Burmese pythons. A $1,000 reward will be given to the person who catches the longest.
In related news, a 10-foot scrub python was recently spotted on the wing section of a Qantas Airlines plane.
The python reportedly held on to the plane’s wing for the entire 1 hour and 50 minute flight from Cairns, Australia to Port Moresby in Papua, New Guinea, BBC News reports.
Reports indicate that passengers first spotted the snake 20 minutes after takeoff when a woman alerted other travelers and the airline crew.
While only the python’s head was visible at first, it was in clear sight after the plane became airborne.
''It appears as though the snake has initially crawled up inside the landing bay, maybe housed himself in there, and then crawled into the trailing ledge flap assembly,” president of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, Paul Cousins, said.
The snake was found dead when the flight landed, having splattered blood on the plane’s white surface.