ORLANDO, Fla. - Calling all snake hunters, the 2023 Florida Python Challenge is right around the corner.
The yearly competition allows snake hunters to humanely capture and kill Burmese pythons, a nonnative species primarily found within Florida's Everglades National Park, for a chance at a $10,000 grand prize.
Burmese pythons are considered to be a threat to the wildlife that live in the Everglades and the overall ecosystem. The challenge raises awareness about the snakes, while also helping to keep their populations down.
Snake hunters from across the U.S. and internationally come to Florida to participate. Here is what you need to know about the challenge, the awards, registration, and Burmese pythons.
What is the Florida python challenge? Why do we have it?
The 2023 Florida Python Challenge is a 10-day challenge that awards money and prizes to competitions who catch and kill the most Burmese pythons and/or the longest python. This year's challenge runs August 4-13, 2023.
It was created to raise awareness about Burmese pythons and their threat to some of Florida's wildlife, the website states, as well as a way to protect the ecosystem within the Everglades.
During the competition, challengers can hunt for Burmese pythons in these areas:
- Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area
- Frog Pond Public Small Game Hunting Area
- Rocky Glades Public Small Game Hunting Area
- Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area
- Holey Land Wildlife Management Area
- Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area
- Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area
What are Burmese pythons? Why are they a problem in South Florida?
Burmese pythons are large, nonvenomous constrictor snakes that are adaptable to a wide variety of habitats, such as grasslands, swamps, marshes, and more. In the Florida ecosystem they are considered an invasive species as they shift the Everglades food-chain.
These pythons are a problem because now native species have to compete for food, habitats, and space. Burmese pythons also prey on "imperiled species" or endangered species such as wood storks, Key Largo woodrats, and limpkins. They also prey on large animals like deer, alligators, and wildcats.
These pythons can lay up to 107 eggs, which makes it hard to control their population. Their skin pattern blends in well with the environment, so it's harder for humans to catch them and difficult for other animals to prey or evade them.
What can you win? What are the prizes?
The top prize is $10,000 and is awarded to the person that catches and kills the most pythons. The second prize is $7,500. There are also awards for the longest python caught and killed.
Here are the different prizes and categories:
Most Pythons Military Prize - $2,500
Most Pythons Military Runner-Up - $1,500
Longest Python Military Prize - $1,000
Most Pythons Professional Category - $2,500
Most Pythons Professional Category Runner-Up - $1,500
Longest Python Professional Category - $1,000
Most Pythons Novice Category - $2,500
Most Pythons Novice Category Runner-Up - $1,500
Longest Python Novice Category - $1,000
What are the rules?
Anyone can participate in the challenge and can compete as a novice or as a professional. Paid contractors are considered to be professionals.
To participate, each person has to pay a $25 registration fee, take an online training course, and pass the test with score of at least 85%.
How do you humanely kill a Burmese python?
Firearms are not allowed to be used in order to kill a Burmese python. However, there are many tools that can be used, such as air guns or captive bolts, according to the website.
Participants have to follow a two-stop process:
- First: Render the Burmese python immediately unconscious
- Second: Immediately destroy the snake's brain via "pithing" (destroy the brain with a screwdriver, spike, or metal pick)