The goal of the Python Challenge was to heighten public awareness about this invasive species, but also an opportunity to gather important data about Burmese python populations and their impact on the Everglades ecosystem.
"Thanks to the determination of Python Challenge competitors, we are able to gather invaluable information that will help refine and focus combined efforts to control pythons in the Everglades," FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley said.
"The enthusiastic support from the public, elected officials, conservation organizations, government agencies and researchers gives hope that we can make progress on this difficult conservation challenge by working together," Wiley added.
At the Python Challenge Awareness and Awards Event at Zoo Miami last Saturday, FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron and Wiley congratulated and presented trophies to the top competitors.
Nearly 1,600 people from 38 states, the District of Columbia and Canada had registered for the competition.
Prizes of $1,500 and $1,000 were awarded for most snakes captured and longest snake in two classes: trained hunters permitted by the state and the general public.
- The $1,500 Grand Prize for harvesting the most Burmese pythons went to Brian Barrows, who harvested six pythons in the General Competition, and Ruben Ramirez, who harvested 18 pythons in the Python Permit Holders Competition.
- The Second Place Prize of $750 in the most-harvested category went to Bill Booth, who harvested five pythons in the General Competition, and Blake Russ, who harvested five pythons in the Python Permit Holders Competition.
- The $1,000 First Place Prize for harvesting the longest Burmese python went to Paul Shannon, who harvested a 14-foot, three-inch-long python in the General Competition, and Blake Russ and Devin Belliston, who harvested a 11-foot, one-inch-long python in the Python Permit Holders Competition.
- The Second Place Prize of $750 in the longest snake category went to Rigoberto Figueroa, for a 14-foot, 2.3-inch-long python in the General Competition, and Ruben Ramirez, who harvested a 10-foot, 3.6-inch-long python in the Python Permit Holders Competition.
Burmese pythons, native to southern Asia, became established in the Everglades through the exotic pet trade just over a decade ago. They have since spread like wildfire in favorable environmental conditions and with no natural predator to keep the overpopulating snake in check.
The snake faces both state and federal bans.