800 Snake Hunters Hoping For Big Pythons
LABELLE, FL. -- Nearly 800 people are registered and ready to compete to see who can bring in the longest and the most Burmese pythons from designated public lands in south Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced today.
For competitors, the challenge is to harvest the well-camouflaged Burmese python, which can grow to more than 17 feet in the wild in Florida, with the chance of winning prizes of up to $1,500. Registrants are coming from more than 30 other states. They have from 1 p.m. Saturday through midnight on Sunday, Feb. 10 to find these nonvenomous constrictors.
For the FWC, the primary goals of the big snake hunt are to raise public awareness and increase the agency’s knowledge base regarding this invasive species and how to better understand and address impacts on the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.
“The 2013 Python Challenge™ is an unprecedented effort to focus public interest, support and direct involvement to help deal with Burmese pythons,” said FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright at the kickoff news conference. “The FWC is pleased that so many people are joining this earnest effort to limit the impact of this invasive species on Florida’s diverse native wildlife. Floridians and people from all across the United States truly care about the Florida Everglades, and they are clearly eager to help us better understand and solve this problem,” Wright added.
The kickoff is the first of two public awareness events concluding with an Awareness and Awards Event on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Zoo Miami.
There are two separate competitions: the General Competition for the public and the Python Permit Holders Competition for people who have permits from the FWC and other agencies to regularly harvest these snakes. Both groups will be collecting data. When dropping off a "harvested" i.e, dead Burmese python, participants must submit data sheets providing information such as the snake’s size, GPS location and habitat where it was found.
Grand prizes of $1,500 for harvesting the most Burmese pythons will be awarded to winners of both the General Competition and the Python Permit Holders Competition, with an additional $1,000 prize for the longest Burmese python harvested overall. Funding for the prizes is provided by sponsors and through registration fees.
The key sponsors of the python hunt are the Felburn Foundation and Flowers Foundation. Many partners, including the University of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, The Future of Hunting in Florida, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Zoo Miami, are providing support for the event.
Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species. The public can help the fight to control invasive species such as Burmese pythons by:
Reporting sightings of exotic species to IveGot1.org, 888-IVEGOT1 (888-483-4861) or by using the free smart phone app IVEGOT1 for iPhone and Android. It’s helpful if you can submit a photo and location.
Not releasing an exotic pet into the wild, and reminding others of the dangers of releasing nonnative species.