FWC Announces 2013 Python Challenge

From FWC Press Release

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is announcing the 2013 Python Challenge™ with its goal of increasing public awareness about Burmese pythons and how this invasive species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.

As part of the Python Challenge, both the public and Florida’s python permit holders are invited to compete to see who can harvest the longest and the most Burmese pythons.

On Jan. 12, the Python Challenge™ Kickoff will initiate a month-long program of harvesting Burmese pythons from public lands, and the public can see and learn more about these large constrictors. The kickoff is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center, which will hold its invasive species open house that day.

“The FWC is encouraging the public to get involved in helping us remove Burmese pythons from public lands in south Florida,” said Kristen Sommers, head of the FWC’s Exotic Species Coordination Section. “By enlisting both the public and Florida’s python permit holders in a month-long competitive harvesting of Burmese pythons, we hope to motivate more people to find and harvest these large, invasive snakes. The Python Challenge gives people a chance to sign up for a competition to see who can catch the longest or the most pythons.

Burmese python closeup. FWC photo by Kevin Enge.

“Part of the goal of the Python Challenge is to educate the public to understand why nonnative species like Burmese pythons should never be released into the wild and encourage people to report sightings of exotic species,” Sommers said. “We also expect the competitive harvesting of Burmese pythons to result in additional information on the python population in south Florida and enhance our research and management efforts.”

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 additional $1,000 prizes for the longest Burmese python harvested in both competitions. Funding for the prizes is provided by Python Challenge™ sponsors. The largest Burmese python documented in Florida was more than 17 feet in length.

Complete information on the Python Challenge™, including how to train and register for the competitions and more about upcoming south Florida events, is available at PythonChallenge.org.

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 involved in the Python Challenge™.
Florida currently prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species.

The Python Challenge™ will conclude with a free Awareness and Awards Event on Feb. 16 at Zoo Miami. Educational talks and exhibits will be available for all ages, with chances to encounter live Burmese pythons, meet the experts who research and capture them, and learn about protecting the precious resources of the Everglades ecosystem, including its native birds, mammals and reptiles. The winners of the General Competition and Python Permit Holders Competition will be presented with their awards.

  • Lana

    This is absutely vile and it makes me sick. You wouldn’t hunt a dog and kill it. These are animals, not monsters. The ONLY reason there even is a native population of Burmese pythons in Florida is because people are too ignorant to take care of them, so they dump them in the woods expecting them to die. Remove the animals, yes. I can agree with that. But why should they have to die just because people are uneducated?

    • joel

      Because being the state would you rather pay hundreds of thousands to have them removed or have a contest for 1, 500$ to have them removed for free by the public? Their just snakes that have a natural population somewhere else their no endangered they should be killed off from Florida otherwise they will endanger our already endangered species.

    • David Ward

      love the knee jerk reactions from people that answer to everything based on their initial raw emotion without giving any thought to what spews from their pie hole. BECAUSE of those ignorant people, other responsible ones must now do the dirty work to save what little is left of the indigenous population is actually left in the everglades. I would like to know your proposal to remove and relocate 10′s of thousands of snakes weighing on average 50 lbs or more. Please feel free to submit your proposed plan along with budget and relocation area to the Florida Wildlife for Consideration.

    • SSF

      Lana, you don't understand a lot of things do you. The snakes are endangering all native life in the Everglades. They are not native to FL. If they are left to continue reproducing, there will be no more wildlife. There are not enough zoos in the world to hold that many snakes. They must die, or you can pay for them to be flown back to their native country. Do you have a problem killing a roach or spider?

    • Up North

      The challenge is DUMB, instead put a bounty on the python and hunt year around. Look what bounties did to the wolves. Let the hunter keep the carcass and remove the head to prevent scams.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sierra.short.1 Sierra Short

    There goes every chance snake keepers ever had of making people realize we aren't all loons who release deadly satanic animals into the wild to eat children. As important as it is to get invasive species out of the Everglades, this sounds far too much like a Rattlesnake Roundup for my tastes. They had better hope that these people can tell the difference between pythons and native snakes. As different as they are, there are people stupid enough not to make a distinction.

    • David Ward

      way past the point that any potential damage to other species outweighs the necessity of eradicating a species that itself is doing FAR more damage to that environment that hunters for a limited time period can do. FAR MORE!

      • http://www.facebook.com/sierra.short.1 Sierra Short

        The only study I have seen that assessed the damage they caused merely looked at roadkill.Basically we have no idea what they can do. I definitely agree that we need to eradicate these snakes, however there will likely be rampant misinformation shared through the event about them, just creating more sensationalism and restrictive laws regarding keeping snakes. Perhaps FWC can pull this off, but I just get the feeling that this will be just another thing the media twists into their sick agenda, when somebody gets hurt or bitten; just one person could create months of coverage demonizing reptile keepers. However I am not against eradicating them; I'm not some animal rights activist, in fact I shoot feral pigs on sight.

  • Jesse

    This is exactly what Florida need!

  • Tucker

    If you know anything about these snakes you would wish they did this a long tie ago. They are taking over and screwing up the balance out there. We should be allowed to hunt and kill them year round.

  • Jason

    You people are so ignorant,these snakes are ruining the ecological balance and are a threat to pets and small children. bet you wouldn't feel the same way if one of them ate your pet or child. They should be banned from being sold in the US as they always grow to be to big to keep.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sierra.short.1 Sierra Short

      Some people have the capabilty to keep them, however I agree that the ones in the Everglades need to be eradicated (though I wonder if this is really the right way to go about it) and that there should be stricter laws or an all out ban in the South Florida area. However some people can and will keep them responsibly; perhaps the government could make money off of a permit system controlling the ownership of large constrictors.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sierra.short.1 Sierra Short

        Also there have been more vending machine related deaths in the same period of time than there have been death by constrictor snake.

  • Noel

    So I have a question for people who know more than myself: What do Burmese Pythons taste like?? Any good?

  • Jim

    I applaud the State for, finally, wising up and try to get the general public involved in the removal of these non-native snakes instead of having a rediculous permitting system for a person to take these snakes. It is just a shame that it took this long for this to come to pass. Hopefully this will extend to other times so that we can at least reduce the number and spread of these threats to our native animal populations.

    I'm just sorry that I don't live in South Florida so that I can take part in this event. Hopefully the colder weather in North Florida will restrict their spread Northward.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zerowingsx Brandon Kumlin

    I currently live in North Dakota, I'm natively from Florida. I spent most of my early teen years and on volunteering at a local pet store in Pinellas Park, FL. I'm currently a member of the Fargo Herp Society in Fargo, ND. this is an outrage. this is complete madness, to be honest. why in the hell would you want untrained citizens trying to go catch an animal they know nothing about. All the average person sees in a large python or snake is a monster. do your research and learn about Burmese pythons, and you'll find that they're actually one of the most docile breeds of pythons in the world. even in the wild. I hope many of you are smart enough to fight this and ask the state to bring in professionals to relocate these animals. And to FWC. thank you. thank you for proving once again that your too lazy to do your job and catch and relocated these beautiful snake yourself, but instead have people who are going to get themselves hurt by many another animal in there everglades trying to do your work for you. this is utterly disgusting and irresponsible on wcs part. and to everyone reading this who is contemplating to attempt to become the next Steve Irwin of Burmese python handlers. please go out and buy one and learn how to handle this animal and learn everything about it before you go and get yourself or any of these creatures hurt.

    • Up North

      Let the untrained citizen get trained on his own and take on the liability of going for a bounty. If you aren't capable you won't hunt them.

  • jass

    I say this a bleeding heart liberal environmentalist…

  • Jennifer

    A couple things, you can tell the difference between a fl native and a 10 to 16 ft python try taking the free course (REDDy light training) and see if you cant tell the difference still. 2nd if you think the everglades whole ecosystem should die because it was out run by invasive species and then think back and say ” I wish someone would have went out there and did something about that” this challenge is not just of people looking to go shoot there guns and even if it was that be ok. Do you feel bad when you kill a rat, step on a roach, call for your house to be sprayed for bugs. That’s what this is, “Your house is filled with termites Mr n Mrs smith would you like to tent your house or let them keep eating you know there just hungry animals?” I am a Fl native and I also own snakes, and I know whats right and whats wrong, no i don’t want to kill an animal but do i want my son to enjoy the everglades like i did when my dad took me camping?

  • Burmese Eradicator

    Kill em all and let god sort em out!