[News] A fight to curb Everglades’ invasive snakes

  • Burmese pythons threaten Florida’s wildlife and are usually larger than all native snakes.
  • The Burmese python is a large nonvenomous constrictor that is an invasive species in Florida.
  • Florida’s python challenge aims to raise awareness of Burmese pythons and curb a rising population.

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

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

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

The commission says hunters may catch and humanely kill Burmese pythons at the time of capture during the 10-day competition, which begins Friday.

The challenge is a conservation effort aimed at raising public awareness ofthe threat pythons pose to the ecosystem.

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

Here are some of the top pictures from the event over the years.

Bryan Backs (L) with the help of Jake Travers, from the the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, learns how to capture a python as he participates in a demonstration before potential snake hunters at the start of the Python Bowl 2020 on January 10, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida.
Dan Keenan wears a knife as he hunts for pythons in the Florida Everglades on the first day of the 2013 Python Challenge on January 12, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
Dusty Crum, of Myakka City, holds up the 11-foot, 6-inch Burmese Python he and his hunting partners captured in the southern Everglades during the Python Challenge. Crum hates to kill the snakes, as the hunt's rules require.  "It's not their fault people are irresponsible," he said.
Jim Howard of Cooper City, Fla., examines a piece of a large snake skin he found under some foliage in the Florida Everglades during his search of pythons as part of the Python Challenge on Jan. 16, 2013.
Dan Keenan (L) and Steffani Burd hunt for pythons in the Florida Everglades on the first day 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 $2,500 cash prize. Second place wins $750.

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

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

What do Burmese pythons look like?

Pythons are tan in color with dark blotches and primarily live in and around the Everglades in south Florida, according to the commission. 

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

This Burmese python was captured by a biologists from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The female snake measured nearly 18 feet in length and weighed 215 pounds and is the largest snake python captured in Florida.
Jeff Fobb, captain of  Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Venom One Unit, conducts a demonstration on how to handle a Burmese Python during the kickoff for the Python Challenge at University of Florida Research and Education Center in Davie, Florida.

When was the largest python ever caught in Florida?

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

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

Native snakes often misidentified as pythons

  • Coachwhip
  • Eastern Diamondback 
  • 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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