Registration opens for annual Florida Python Challenge

MIAMI (AP) — Registration opened Wednesday for the 2023 Florida Python Challenge, giving participants a chance to win a share of more than $30,000 in prizes while removing invasive Burmese pythons from the wild.

The 10-day competition runs Aug. 4–13 and is open to both professional and novice snake hunters. A grand prize of $10,000 goes to the participant who removes the most pythons, plus smaller prizes for additional categories.

“There is nowhere in the world like America’s Everglades, and we need to continue to protect and restore this national treasure," South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron said in a statement. “Removing invasive pythons from across the Greater Everglades Ecosystem is absolutely critical, and we must do everything we can to combat this invasive species.”

Participants in last year's competition removed 231 invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades, an increase from the 2021 number and more than double those removed in 2020. Nearly 1,000 people from 32 states, Canada and Latvia registered.

Besides year-round python removal opportunities on 25 state-managed lands, pythons can be humanely killed on private lands at any time with landowner permission. No permit or hunting license is required, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages people to remove and humanely kill pythons from private lands whenever possible.

Burmese pythons are not native to Florida, and they negatively impact native wildlife, officials said. This invasive species is found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem in South Florida, where they prey on birds, mammals, and other reptiles. A female Burmese python may lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time. Since 2000, more than 18,000 Burmese pythons have been reported to the FWC as removed from the environment.