Python Hunt Officially Began Today in Florida

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The Burmese python hunt has over 800 competitors trudging through the Florida Everglades in search of the invasive snake species. The hunt began this morning and will end at 5 p.m. (ET) on August 15, according to officials who gathered for the kick-off of the annual event in Miami. The hunt will bring in up to $2,500 prize money in both the novice and professional categories for whoever brings in the most snakes.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s wife, Casey, stated the event was “significant because every python removed is one less invasive species preying on our native birds, mammals, and reptiles.”

There have been more than 17,000 pythons removed from the Everglades ecosystem since 2000. A female Burmese python can lay up to 100 eggs each year. They are not native to the state and prey on other reptiles, mammals, and birds.

Currently, there are registered hunters from 32 states and Canada. Those participating in the contest must pay $25 to register and complete an online training course.

Participants must pass the training quiz with at least an 85%. There is an Optional Training page that includes additional tools to help search for and safely capture pythons.

The fee is non-refundable. Individuals can register at any time during the competition.

All hunters must kill the snakes humanely. Anyone who kills them in an inhumane manner or a native snake will be immediately disqualified.

Competitors can hunt for the invasive species in the following area:

  • Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area.
  • Holey Land Wildlife Management Area.
  • Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area.
  • Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area.
  • Frog Pond Public Small Game Hunting Area.
  • Rocky Glades Public Small Game Hunting Area.
  • Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area.
python
Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife (Flickr CC0)

Anyone who is snake hunting on the Big Cypress National Preserve and finds one of the several Burmese pythons with an orange tag near the head or tail must release it alive and unharmed. Prior to releasing the snake in the area captured, take a picture of the tag with the identification number visible.

People must submit the picture of the tag number with the GPS capture location and date to bicy_python@nps.gov within 24 hours of capture to receive credit for catching the snake.

Registered contestants don’t need a Wildlife Management Area permit or a Florida hunting license to participate. SFWMD Python Elimination Program members and FWC Python Action Team members must follow all of the terms and conditions in their contracts while participating in Competition Locations.

Youth under the age of 18 can compete in the contest. They just need a parent or legal guardian to fill out their registration paperwork. The youth must be accompanied by a registered adult while they compete. Legal guardians and parents are liable for their youth’s participation.

All participants must have a copy of their completed successful registration in their possession when they remove the pythons for the competition. This copy can be either printed or electronic.

People can use dogs — in some areas — and drones as long as it is not prohibited by federal law.  They are specifically prohibited in Big Cypress WMA and all SFWMD properties. Additionally, drones may not be used to take or attempt to take game animals or crows or used to herd or drive them.

Once a competitor has humanely killed the snake they can turn them in at any official event check station — during open check station hours. If a python is killed after the check stations have closed they must freeze or chill the carcass. The dead snake needs to be submitted to an official check station within 24 hours of capture.

Only those acting as a python removal contractor in their official capacity for the SFWMD or the FWC are permitted to remove them alive.

Those who wish to keep the skin of their submissions need to check the box for carcass return on the data sheet that is turned in with the snake at a check station location. After the submission is measured for official entry into the Florida Python Challenge® and the entry window has ended, competitors will be notified to pick up the carcass from the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.

Winners for removing the longest and the most Burmese pythons will be given their prizes during the Florida Python Challenge® Awards Ceremony.

Written by Sheena Robertson

Sources:

Florida Python Challange 2022: Frequently Asked Questions
ABC News: Python hunt! 800 compete to remove Florida’s invasive snakes

Top and Featured Image by Andy Wraithmell Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife‘s Flickr Page Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Andy Wraithmell Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife‘s Flickr Page Creative Commons License

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