Florida has kicked off its annual Python Challenge this week, as officials look to eliminate wild Burmese Pythons, a threat to the environment in the region.
In 2020, people came from 20 different states to remove a record number of pythons from the environment. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is determined to reduce the number of invasive Burmese pythons.
“I am proud to be in the Everglades, as we kick off registration for the 2021 Python Challenge,” he said. “[The snakes] can grow to 20 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds and cause major damage to the ecosystem. I mean, these things will eat everything.”
The annual challenge awards prizes to those who remove and catch the biggest and longest pythons in the Everglades, and they have created new ways to catch pythons.
“For example, the [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] is training a python detector dog team,” DeSantis said. “They’re also working with [the University of Central Florida] to create infrared vehicle cameras to help us detect pythons.”
Experts said the python is difficult to find, and for 2021, they are opening hunting to secondary trails, including federal land, including the Big Cypress Natural Preserve, totaling some 800,000 acres, to restore a healthy food chain.
“The Python Challenge is to remove as many snakes as we can but also educate the public on how to safely remove the snake,” South Florida Water Management District spokesperson Ron Bergeron said.
The pythons prey on birds, mammals and other reptiles and can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time. Officials said the removal of these snakes gives Florida wildlife a fighting chance.
“At the end of the day, if we can save the environment, we can save the quality of life for future generations in Florida and long live the Everglades,” Bergeron said.
The 10-day challenge starts July 9 and ends July 18. To register for this year’s challenge, click here.