Exotic dishes composed of unthinkable origins is nothing new for people from different parts of the world. Snakes are perhaps the last thing that anyone would dare to eat, most wary of the effects it may have unless it is proven safe.

However, it appears this is the intent of Florida State officials who want to see more people eat pythons. Consuming them includes some nutritional value but it appears the move was intended for something else – encourage hunting to control their population, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“We would like to use consumption as another way to encourage people to remove pythons in Florida if the meat is safe to eat,” Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. “The study will help ensure that is safe.”

Burmese pythons are considered one of the intrusive species in Florida. They have been notorious for disrupting the food chain, particularly in areas like the Everglades. Their numbers have grown considerably and the state has been struggling to contain them.

Assuming that this gains ground, cooking them immediately after getting captured does not follow. There are safety concerns with some possibly full of mercury, a neurotoxin that would be harmful to humans.

Hence, the Florida Department of Health needs to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to address this concern. They need to conduct tissue samples on pythons first and determine if they contain mercury and how much. From here, they can determine if they are safe for human consumption. The safe limit for mercury is 0.3 parts per million.

One person who has consumed pythons is Donna Kalil. She is the state’s first certified female python hunter, got her start when the state-sponsored python hunts began in March 2017. She admits having eaten dozens of pythons in the last three years or so.

“I don’t really want to say like fish because it is more the texture of fish,” Kalil said, “but it definitely does not taste anything like fish, it tastes more like chicken.”

The winter is the best time to hunt down pythons. The state’s annual Florida Python Challenge is something that hunter look forward to, an event where hunters can win cash prizes for the largest and heaviest pythons captured.

“The winter months are a good time to capture pythons,” Segelson said. “However, we have also seen great success in the summer when pythons’ nests are hatching and are more likely to be found together in greater numbers. COVID was also a consideration when making this decision.”

Florida Pythons
Pythons were captured, dead or alive, during the "Python Challenge" this weekend in Florida. Reuters

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