MIAMI (AP) — More than 230 pythons were removed from the Florida Everglades as part of an annual competition to eliminate the invasive species from the South Florida wetlands preserve.
Florida wildlife officials said Thursday that 1,000 hunters from 32 states and as far away as Canada and Latvia removed 231 Burmese pythons during the 10-day competition known as the Florida Python Challenge.
Matthew Concepcion won the $10,000 top prize for removing 28 Burmese pythons. Another hunter, Dustin Crum, won a $1,500 prize for removing the longest python, a snake that measured over 11 feet (3.3 meters).
Pythons became invasive in Florida after they were brought into the state as pets and then abandoned in the wild by their owners, wildlife officials say. Since 2000, more than 17,000 wild Burmese pythons have been removed from Florida, where they are a destructive presence for native species, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Every one of the pythons removed as part of the Challenge is one less preying on our native birds, mammals and reptiles," said Rodney Barreto, the commission's chairman.