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The pythons, of course, are non-native species that have adapted well to Florida's subtropical environment. They made the vast expanse of the Everglades and other parts of Florida (they have been seen as far north at Tampa, Ocala, and Orlando) home after they escaped (or were released) from exotic pet owners who thought it would be cool to own one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.
Female pythons can lay over 50 eggs, although 20-40 is more common, which means that the snakes can quickly overtake ecosystems and do considerable damage to native species. In many ways, the snakes are choking out the local plants and animals and constricting the ability of ecosystems to recoil from the difficulties associated with a century of damage from human activity.
The annual Florida python hunt usually nabs several hundred of the snakes--probably a small percentage of the total. However, the hunt, carefully managed by wildlife officials, provides valuable information about the behavior of the animal so that biologists can better figure out how to try to limit the impacts of the python.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Foundation made the hunt a contest called the Python Challenge in order to attract participants. Hunters can win cash prizes for the most number of pythons killed and the longest pythons.
Unfortunately, the snakes have picked up hazardous levels of mercury and their meat is not safe to eat. However, hunters may be able to utilize the skins.
I've written previously about the python problem in Florida here, here, here, and here.