EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. — Wildlife leaders are celebrating another successful year of the Florida Python Challenge with some pretty hefty prizes for the hunters who bagged the most snakes.
This year, nearly 1,000 people from 32 U.S. states, Canada and Latvia slithered down to South Florida to remove 231 invasive Burmese pythons — eight more snakes than last year's competition.
The Ultimate Grand Prize winner, Matthew Concepcion, took home a whopping $10,000 for bagging 28 pythons. The award for the longest python removed went to Dustin Crum for his 11-foot, 0.24 inches catch. He was awarded $1,500.
Other cash prizes ranged from $750 to $2,500 for winners in different categories.
“Once again, the Florida Python Challenge has yielded impressive results with hundreds of invasive pythons being removed from the wild,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement. “Removing these snakes is one of the many efforts we are employing to restore and maintain the Everglades ecosystem.”
Every year since 2013, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has hosted the 10-day Python Challenge as a way to combat the threats invasive Burmese pythons pose to our ecosystem. Since 2000, the agency says more than 17,000 wild Burmese pythons have been removed from the state.
“Every one of the pythons removed as part of the Challenge is one less preying on our native birds, mammals and reptiles. This is a win for the Everglades and a win for the people of Florida," FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said.
Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem. Because of the snakes' negative impacts on our native species, people can remove and humanely kill pythons at any time on private lands with landowner permission and on 25 commission-managed lands.
If snake hunting isn't your thing, you can still help the FWC combat invasive species by reporting sightings to the Invasive Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681) or online.