A fight to curb invasive Everglades snakes

  • Burmese pythons threaten Florida wildlife and are generally larger than any native snakes.
  • The Burmese python is a non-venomous large constrictor that is an invasive species in Florida.
  • The Florida Python Challenge aims to raise awareness of Burmese pythons and curb a growing population.

Hunters, enthusiasts, experts and spectators will descend on the Everglades and take on the Florida Python Challenge – an annual event to combat the invasive Burmese python.

The non-venomous Burmese python poses a threat to native Florida wildlife and is larger than nearly all native snakes, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Studies have shown that pythons wiped out rabbit and fox populations in areas of Everglades National Park.

The commission says hunters can humanely catch and kill Burmese pythons upon capture during the 10-day competition, which begins Friday.

The Challenge is a conservation effort aimed at raising awareness of the threat pythons pose to the ecosystem.

Besides bragging rights, the person who kills the most pythons or kills the python the longest can win a range of substantial cash prizes (more on that below).

Here are some of the best photos from the event over the years.

Bryan Backs (L) with help from Jake Travers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission learns how to capture a python as he takes part in a demonstration in front of would-be snake hunters at the start of the 2020 Python Bowl on January 10 2020 in Sunrise, Florida.
Dan Keenan carries a knife as he hunts pythons in the Florida Everglades on day one of the 2013 Python Challenge on January 12, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
Dusty Crum of Myakka City holds the 11-foot, 6-inch Burmese python he and his hunting partners captured in the southern Everglades during the Python Challenge.  Crum hates killing snakes, as the rules of the hunt require.
Jim Howard of Cooper City, Florida examines a piece of a large snakeskin he found under foliage in the Florida Everglades while searching for pythons as part of the Python Challenge January 16, 2013.
Dan Keenan (L) and Steffani Burd hunt pythons in the Florida Everglades on day one of the 2013 Python Challenge on January 12, 2013 in Miami, Florida.

What are the Florida Python Challenge prize amounts?

The first place winner for the most pythons receives a cash prize of $2,500. Second place wins $750.

The longest grand prize in python is worth $1,500. Second place also wins $750.

Daniel Moniz unfurls a Burmese python snakeskin in his backyard in Lebanon, Ohio on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. He caught this snake during the 2016 Python Challenge in Florida.

What do Burmese pythons look like?

The pythons are tan in color with dark markings and live primarily in and around the Everglades in South Florida, according to the commission.

Burmese pythons in Florida are typically between 6 and 10 feet long, although they can grow to over 20 feet.

This Burmese python was captured by a biologist from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  The female snake was nearly 18 feet long and weighed 215 pounds and is the largest python snake captured in Florida.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom One Unit Captain Jeff Fobb demonstrates how to handle a Burmese python during the launch of the Python Challenge at the University of Florida Research and Education Center in Davie , in Florida.

When was the largest python ever caught in Florida?

In June, biologists captured the state’s largest python – a female with a record 122 eggs and the remains of an adult white-tailed deer in her abdomen – weighing 215 pounds and measuring almost 18 feet long. , reported the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

This record-breaking Burmese python was captured by a biologist from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  The female snake was nearly 18 feet long and weighed 215 pounds and is the largest python snake captured in Florida.

Native snakes are often misidentified as pythons

  • Whiplash
  • eastern diamond
  • red rat snake
  • Cottonmouth
  • eastern indigo snake
  • water snakes

Camille Fine is a Trending Visual Producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.

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