TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Calling all snake hunters!
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited the Everglades on Thursday to kick off registration for the 2021 Python Challenge.
The 10-day python removal competition begins at 8 a.m. on July 9 and ends at 5 p.m. on July 18.
"Participants who remove the most pythons and capture the longest pythons will receive prizes at the end of the competition," DeSantis said.
The annual challenge aims to remove invasive Burmese pythons from Florida's ecosystem. The snakes, which can grow up to 20 feet and 200 pounds, can cause "major damage" to our environment, DeSantis said.
"These things will eat everything," DeSantis said. "If they're just running roughshod over all the other species, that's not what we want."
The governor said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had a record year for python removal in 2020. 5,500 pythons have been removed from the Everglades since 2018.
"There's people from all over the world that want to come do the python challenge," DeSantis said. "So we want to continue to do that."
FWC is looking at new ways to remove the invasive reptiles, including training a python detector dog team and working with the University of Central Florida to create infrared vehicle cameras to detect pythons.
"It's very hard to find these," DeSantis said. "So if we can harness technology to help us identify them more quickly and easily, you're gonna see even more pythons being removed."
The FWC announced a new $10,000 "Ultimate Grand Prize" in the 2021 Florida Python Challenge® on July 2, 2021.
The new prize comes with sponsorship from Virtual Business Services. The award will be presented to the participant who removes the most pythons as part of the competition.
In a released statement, FWC said participants who do not win the Ultimate Grand Prize can still win thousands of dollars for the most pythons in the “Professional” or “Novice” categories. There are also awards for the longest snakes in both categories. Active-duty military personnel and veterans who register for the competition will be eligible for additional prizes.
The 2021 Florida Python Challenge® kicks off at 8 a.m. on July 9, 2021, and ends July 18, 2021, at 5 p.m.
Registration is now open and people can sign up to participate until the last day of the event. There is a $25 registration fee and participants must complete free online training.
To learn more about the 2021 Python Challenge and to register, click here.
DeSantis signed Florida's new budget on Tuesday, which allocates more than $625 million for environmental causes, including more than $415 million for Everglades restoration projects and $302 million for targeted water quality improvements.