A 19-year-old Floridian just nabbed the #1 prize in the state's annual Florida Python Challenge by tracking, capturing, and extracting dozens of reptiles from the state's forests. And yes, this event exists: It's been going on since 2013.
A 19-Year-Old Just Won The 2022 Florida Python-Catching Challenge. Wait, What?
'Impressive Results' Overall
Matthew Concepcion, 19, snagged the top prize of $10,000 after catching 28 Burmese pythons in this year's annual Python-Catching Challenge. Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation first announced the news.
Overall, the 10-day challenge, which is now almost ten years old, "yielded impressive results" according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. In the end, 231 pythons were extracted from Florida's natural habitats.
Hunting Is Caring
The contest was first created to provide an incentive to remove the state's many invasive Burmese pythons, which have taken over Florida's forests thanks to irresponsible owners releasing them into the wild.
"Removing these snakes is one of the many efforts we are employing to restore and maintain the Everglades ecosystem," DeSantis said in a statement.
"Our python hunters are passionate about what they do and care very much about Florida’s precious environment. We are removing record numbers of pythons, and we’re going to keep at it," added "Alligator Ron" Bergeron, a District Governing Board Member for South Florida Water Management.
For All Floridians
Nearly 1,000 people from 31 U.S. states, as well as Canada and Latvia, arrived in Florida in August to compete in the 10-day challenge, which was first created to "increase awareness about invasive species and the threats they pose to Florida’s ecology," according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation.
Hunters could enter the Contest as professionals or as novices to compete for prizes that included "Most Pythons Caught" and "Longest Python." There was also a distinct "Military Category" for veterans and active-duty contestants.
Rodney Barreto, Chairman of the Fish & Wildlife Conservation, said the Python Challenge is beneficial not just to the Everglades, where most of the pythons breed, but for all Floridians. He stressed that each extracted python is "one less [python] preying on our native birds, mammals and reptiles."
You, Too, Can Get Rid Of Pythons
The FWC has explained that Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and that their continual breeding in the Everglades and south Florida has damaged native species. A female Burmese python can lay up to 50 to 100 eggs at any given time. But since 2000, over 17,000 Burmese pythons have been extracted from the wild.
But the FWC adds that conservation measures can go beyond a simple contest. Residents and visitors can control the rise of invasive species themselves by hunting and humanely killing Burmese pythons. This can even be done on private land as long as a hunter has permission from a landowner.