Researchers and licensed catchers spent Thursday brushing up on how to properly and safely catch pythons as the non-native snakes continue to wreak havoc on South Florida’s ecosystem by displacing some of the native wildlife. Edward Mercer, who captures snakes, spoke to NBC 6 about catching the snakes.
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.
In addition to removing the pythons, one of the goals of the challenge is to educate the public of the dangers the reptiles pose to the Everglades ecosystem. Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of the species.
"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," Kristin Sommers, head of FWC's Exotic Species Coordination Section, said in a statement. "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."