By Keerthi Chandrashekar / ( | First Posted: Jan 19, 2013 01:54 PM EST

(Photo : REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

Florida has its share of problems like any state, but there's one slithering menace that seems to rear its constricting head more often than not - Burmese pythons. In response to this invasive species, Florida is currently sponsoring a python hunt that has now has more than 20 notches in its post.

The contest, which kicked off one week ago, Jan. 12, has claimed the lives of 21 pythons, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Participating in the contest is easy, all one has to do is complete a 30-minute instructional course and hand over $25. After that, snake hunters are encouraged to rid the Everglades of the invasive python. The state is even offering a $1,500 reward to whoever catches the most pythons, and a $1,000 reward to the person who nabs the longest python.

"Aside from the obvious goal of reducing the Burmese python population in the Everglades, we also hope to educate the public about Burmese pythons in Florida and how people can help limit the impact of this and other invasive species in Florida," Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

"We are also using the Challenge to gauge the effectiveness of using an incentive-based model as one tool to address a challenging invasive species management problem."

Animal rights groups, however, have protested what they view as blatant massacre of another living species.

"This bounty hunt is misguided in the first place, but allowing hunters to decapitate pythons -- who remain alive and in agony and who will writhe for an hour even after their heads have been cut off -- is despicably cruel," PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a public statement.

Burmese pythons, which are native to southeast Asia, have become some of the most blatant poster childs for invasive species. The python, which is now believed to number in the hundreds of thousands in the Everglades, enjoys an air of superiority in Florida due to there being no natural predators around. It was just last year that researchers bagged a 17-foot Burmese python - a vivid sign that these snakes are growing unchecked and devouring native wildlife in the process.

What do you think of the Florida Burmese Python Challenge? Inhuman, or a necessary measure to save the native ecosystem?

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