Florida is a diverse outdoors state. The interior is home to some of the best freshwater fishing in the country. The coast offers some of the best saltwater fishing. There are deer, turkey, alligators, bears, panthers and countless bird species all adding to the amazing plethora of wildlife found in the state. Yet, Florida has a new species that needs to go. Burmese pythons are harming the Everglades ecosystem and a new initiative looks to eliminate as many of them as possible.
The 2021 Florida Python Challenge is a competition with a $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize to the participant who removes the most pythons. It kicks off at 8 a.m. on July 9, 2021 and ends July 18, 2021 at 5 p.m. Registration is now open and people can sign up to participate until the last day of the event. There is a $25 registration fee and participants must complete free online training.
The challenge is being conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), South Florida Water Management District and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation (SFWMD) of Florida. It is supported by a sponsorship from Virtual Business Services. Even if you don’t win the $10,000 top prize, there are still opportunities to win thousands of dollars for the most pythons in the “Professional” or “Novice” categories. There are also awards for the longest snakes in both categories. Active-duty military personnel and veterans who register for the competition will be eligible for additional prizes.
In a press release, FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said, “This is a monumental contribution to the cause of removing Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem. We are grateful to Virtual Business Services for their generous donation and hope this sparks more interest in this important effort. Working under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, we will continue to work with our partners to protect our natural resources from the threat of invasive species.”
Burmese pythons are a non-native species spreading throughout the Everglades. These giant snakes, which have been recorded at over 18 feet long and weighing over 100 pounds, are doing serious damage to the native wildlife populations. They consume what they come across, including eggs from nest, both on the ground and in trees. They’ll eat everything from mice to deer.
“I want to thank the public and all of our corporate sponsors for making this challenge possible. The South Florida Water Management District, the FWC and our partners in this great endeavor are teaming up to take the fight to the pythons and we won’t stop until these invasive snakes are eliminated and the Everglades are protected,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron.
Some of the main areas where pythons are found in south Florida include the Everglades National Park, Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area, Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area, Big Cypress National Preserve, Collier-Seminole State Park, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and adjacent areas.
Even outside of the competition, the rules of engagement for pythons in Florida are simple. If you encounter one, kill it. For those who actually want to go hunt for them, pythons are typically found near water. They can be on the ground or up in trees. The vegetation is so thick in most areas though, it makes finding them difficult. Your best is to locate them on levees along canals and crossing roads at night.
If the python problem is not addressed aggressively, these snakes could become a much larger problem. A female Burmese python can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time. Since 2000, more than 13,000 Burmese pythons have reportedly been removed from the state of Florida. The hope is that number grows rapidly and the 2021 Florida Python Challenge is one attempt to make a serious impact.
If you are ready to head off to Florida to hunt pythons and try to win $10,000, visit www.FLPythonChallenge.org to register for the competition and take the online training. The website also has more information about Burmese pythons and the unique Everglades ecosystem they are invading. You’ll also find plenty of resources for planning your trip to south Florida to participate in the Florida Python Challenge.
See you down the trail…
This article originally appeared on Lake Sun Leader: Florida Python challenge pays to kill invasive snakes