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Hundreds in Fla. join python hunt

A man demonstrated how to handle a 13-foot, 85-pound Burmese python in Davie, Fla. Saturday.

Robert Sullivan /REUTERS

A man demonstrated how to handle a 13-foot, 85-pound Burmese python in Davie, Fla. Saturday.

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. — An armed mob has set out into the Florida Everglades to flush out a scaly invader.

It sounds like the second act of a sci-fi horror flick; instead it is Florida’s plan for dealing with an infestation of Burmese pythons that are eating their way through a fragile ecosystem.

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Nearly 800 people signed up for the month-long ‘‘Python Challenge’’ that started Saturday afternoon. The vast majority — 749 — lack the permits usually required to harvest pythons on public lands.

‘‘We feel like anybody can get out in the Everglades and figure out how to try and find these things,’’ said Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Twenty-eight python permit holders also joined the hunt at various locations in the Everglades. The state is offering cash prizes to whoever brings in the longest python and whoever bags the most pythons by the time the competition ends at midnight Feb. 10.

Dozens of would-be python hunters showed up for some last-minute training in snake handling Saturday morning at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.

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