Following much anticipation, participants in the 'Python Challenge' will now take to the Everglades to hunt the highly invasive and destructive Burmese pythons in hopes of winning cash prizes.
While many consider the challenge to be a fun and exciting way for snake hunters or novices to compete, it is also a strategic effort to diminish the python population in the Everglades. The challenge was previously announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a way to increase the welfare of the Everglades ecosystems.
"It's just unbelievable what they will ravage when they're there, they're not native here," DeSantis said. "The reality is they can exact serious destruction on the overall ecosystem."
Burmese pythons are known for their ability to quickly ravage wildlife and inhibit food chains. They do so by eating alligators, crocodiles, birds, and small mammals. Recently, the heaviest captured Burmese python was even revealed to have eaten an adult deer as its last meal.
The challenge was born of a pressing need to eliminate this issue, according to Michael Kirkland, senior invasive animal biologist for the South Florida Water Management District and the manager of Florida’s Python Elimination Program.
“The proliferation of pythons is an emergency situation for our native wildlife in South Florida,” said Kirkland. “Human detection right now is the most effective tool in our toolbox.”
After registering and completing online safety training, participants are encouraged to hunt and kill pythons from Aug. 5 to Aug. 14.
A $2,500 prize will be allotted to the team that captures the most pythons, and a $1,500 prize will be allotted to the team that captures the longest python.
"I’m impressed you have people really from across the nation, I think 32 states are participating in the python challenge," Casey DeSantis said at a press conference. "People are coming far away from Canada. They're committed, just as we are to ensuring that we are preserving the Everglades better to the next generation.”
To get involved in the challenge, see here to register and complete the necessary training courses.