Sep 19, 2023 - News

Florida Python Challenge winner catches 20 Burmese pythons in 10 days

A group of people holds a giant symbolic check

Paul Hobbs with the grand prize check. Image: Courtesy of The South Florida Water Management District

Paul Hobbs won the grand prize of the 2023 Florida Python Challenge last Friday.

What's happening: Hobbs and teammates caught 20 Burmese pythons in South Florida during the 10-day contest, winning $10,000.

  • In total, 1,050 participants from 35 states and Belgium competed to collectively catch 209 Burmese pythons.
  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) holds the annual hunt to increase awareness about the threats posed by invasive species.

Why it matters: The invasive species consumes almost all mammals from the Everglades ecosystem but has few predators aside from humans.

  • Pythons were found in the Everglades as early as 1979. By 2012, observations of raccoons, opossums, bobcats, rabbits, gray foxes and white-tailed deer had dropped 85%–100%, according to an analysis published this year in the scientific journal NeoBiota.

The big picture: Pythons are notoriously difficult to track and count, but scientists estimate there could be "tens of thousands" of them in South Florida.

  • The state also pays contractors to hunt pythons through a program called the Python Action Team Removing Invasive Constrictors (PATRIC), which began in 2017.
  • Contractors are paid $13 to $18 per hour, plus more for snakes caught and nests removed.
  • Nearly 20,000 pythons have been removed since 2006 — 11,000 of those from paid contractors, the Tampa Bay Times reports, noting that females can lay roughly 100 eggs per year.

What they're saying: "Removing these invasive pythons is an important part of our efforts to protect the Everglades, and this competition allows people to get involved in Florida's conservation efforts for one of the world's most prized natural resources," Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said in a statement.

Of note: The $10,000 grand prize was provided by Inversa Leathers, a company that uses captured python hides to make luxury products like purses and shoes.


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