According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more than 800 people are registered to compete in the the 2013 Python Challenge, which is a competition to see who can bring in the longest and the most Burmese pythons from designated public lands in south Florida.
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, according to the FWC.
Hunters will have from midnight on Sunday, Feb. 10 to find these nonvenomous constrictors.
According to the FWC, the primary goals of the Python Challenge 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."
“When they harvest snakes, Python Challenge competitors will be collecting valuable data that will contribute to the current Burmese python research and management efforts of the FWC and its partners,” Wright said in a FWC news release. “We are grateful to Python Challenge participants, sponsors and partners for helping make this event happen.”
There are two separate Python Challenge 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 Burmese python, participants must submit data sheets providing information such as the snake’s size, GPS location and habitat where it was found, the FWC said.
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.
People can sign up for the Python Challenge at any time through the Feb. 10 competition, even on the final day. Go to PythonChallenge.org for the required online training, official rules and registration, as well as information on the public events.