The Florida Python Challenge, an annual statewide competition that kicks off Friday, will bring hundreds of snake-hunting professionals and novices to South Florida to hunt what wildlife officials are calling the state’s most concerning invasive species: the Burmese python. The Florida Python Challenge invites novices to hunt alongside professionals like Siewe, and compete for cash prizes. This year’s challenge runs Aug. 5 through Aug. 14. Its goal is to both nab snakes and raise awareness of the environmental harm they cause.
Participants in the challenge are required to pay a $25 registration fee and take an online course that requires them to prove, among other things, they can distinguish a Burmese python from native Florida snake species. Awards of up to $2,500 will be given in a variety of categories, including the most pythons caught and the longest pythons nabbed.
“The proliferation of pythons is an emergency situation for our native wildlife in South Florida,” said Michael Kirkland, senior invasive animal biologist for the South Florida Water Management District and the manager of Florida’s Python Elimination Program. “Human detection right now is the most effective tool in our toolbox.”
Kirkland said professional contractors like Siewe have removed 10,000 pythons since the state began employing them in 2017. With the additional help of novices during the challenge, the state hopes to catch hundreds more.
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