Florida has come up with a way to control its ballooning wild python population: Put them on the dinner menu.
The southern US state is renowned for the Everglades, the tropical wetlands that covers some 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres).
It’s an environment that’s prime for Burmese pythons, which were first found – likely introduced by way of an escaped pet – in the region in the 1980s.
Since then, they’ve run rampant.
With a bevy of native animals to feed on, the pythons have reached gigantic sizes and numbers.
The largest one caught so far is some 5.7 metres.
While they’re not venomous, they’re huge and they happily feast away on small mammals like racoons and rabbits, through to the odd human.
“We have a severe python problem, which began when irresponsible pet owners released them into the wild and they’ve basically eaten all the native mammals down in Everglades National Park,” Donna Kalil, part of the Python Elimination Program, told CNN.
“There’s literally 2 to 3 per cent of rabbits and raccoons and possums left, so when I see a rabbit, I’m jumping with joy now.
“There just aren’t any more of them because of the pythons.”
Donna already eats pythons, and says they’re quite tasty when done right.
But you can’t just walk into the Everglades and bop and eat any old python.
Because of the Everglades’ environment, some pythons have high levels of mercury in their system, which can make them murky in safety terms for human consumption.
Donna tests the pythons she catches and kills with a mercury home-testing kit, but now the state’s wildlife commission and the health department are teaming up to figure out just how much mercury is in the Everglades’ python population.
If results point to overwhelmingly safe to eat, there’s hope the pythons will find their way out of the Everglades and onto dinner plates.
Floridians are already asked to humanely kill or report any Burmese pythons they see, but if they can be turned into a food trade, there’s hope their numbers will be wound back much quicker and the eco-system can start to rebuild itself.