Florida’s annual python challenge is back for the ninth year in a row.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is now accepting applications for participants to take part in the state’s 10-day event to cull some of the thousands of invasive Burmese pythons out of the Everglades.
The FWC and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will host the event, which will run from Aug. 5-14. Applicants will have to take an online training course and register to compete in the challenge. Hunters who capture the longest python will get a $2,500 reward, and the hunter who catches the most will receive $1,500.
Those wishing to participate can visit FLPythonChallenge.org to take the course and register. In-person training sessions are also available.
Pythons, originally brought to Florida as pets and released into the Everglades by their owners, prey on the natural wildlife of the Everglades.
“The reality is they can exert serious destruction on the overall ecosystem,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Miami. “These pythons are a threat to the Everglades.”
The annual event, however, is likely to put only a small dent in South Florida’s invasive snake population.
Last year’s event had 600 participants who captured or killed 223 pythons. The largest was 15 feet, 9 inches. There are thousands of pythons in the Everglades, but DeSantis claimed of the 16,000 that have been removed, 8,000 have come within the last three years, under his administration.
There also is $3 million in the upcoming budget year for python removal efforts, which will pay for technologies such as infrared cameras and radar to find the pythons in the Everglades swamps.
“You can’t have a healthy environment without a healthy food chain,” said SFWMD board member Ron Bergeron.