MIAMI — For everyone who took the time to register for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge — you're about to be really busy!
Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis helped kick off the challenge Friday by giving a few encouraging words — and even going out to try to catch a python herself.
"I'm impressed that you have people really from across the nation, I think 32 states, are participating in the Python Challenge. I think people are coming from as far away as Canada to do this," she said during a news conference.
Interested participants were able to register back in June, and now they are ready to start collecting the scaly friends for prizes. Participants have until Aug. 14 to catch the pythons.
The challenge allows the public to help engage head-on to help with the problem of the invasive species in the Sunshine State, according to the governor.
And participants aren't removing the pythons for nothing — there are rewards: The person who removes the most pythons will receive a prize of $2,500, while the individual who removes the longest python will get $1,500.
“The Everglades is one of the world’s most prized natural resources, and we have invested record funding for Everglades restoration projects, including record funding for removal of invasive Burmese pythons which wreak havoc on the ecosystem,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in a previous statement.
“Because of this focus, we have removed record numbers of invasive pythons from the Everglades. I am proud of the progress we’ve made, and I look forward to seeing the results of this year’s Python Challenge.”
The FWC encourages people to remove and kill pythons from private lands whenever possible.
“The Florida Everglades is an iconic habitat in Florida and removing Burmese pythons from this ecosystem is critical to the survival of the species that live in this vast wild area,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto said in a previous statement. “Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, the FWC and our dedicated partners continue to have great success conserving our native wildlife and managing this invasive predator.”
Florida has been working hard on removing pythons for years. The governor signed the Freedom First budget, which has an investment of up to $3 million for python removal efforts — including research and development of technology to detect the snakes.
Burmese pythons aren't native to Florida and are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem. The snakes usually eat birds, mammals and other reptiles.
For more information on Burmese pythons, visit MyFWC.com/Python.