11:22 a.m. July 19, 2022 updates:
An earlier version of this story stated the Florida Python Challenge takes place in Everglades National Park. While the competition encourages removal of Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem, it does not actually take place directly in Everglades National Park. The Everglades ecosystem extends beyond Everglades National Park boundaries. The competition areas listed in this article are correct.
Also, there is no ultimate grand prize winner for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge, according to the FWC.
Original story posted July 18, 2022:
Ssssssso, there’s a Florida python challenge coming up, and we want to help you prepare.
The Florida Python Challenge, aka the Florida Python Bowl, helps protect Everglades habitat and the animals that live there from these invasive, nonnative snakes. As an apex predator, Burmese pythons disrupt the food chain of the Glades.
The python removal competition runs Aug. 5-14. Here are some things to know about the 2022 Florida Python Challenge.
What is the Florida Python Challenge?
The Florida Python Challenge is a 10-day event in which professional and novice snake hunters head into the levees and swamps of the southern Everglades to capture as many pythons as possible.
Wowza! Two Burmese pythons, 23 eggs, 19 hatchlings removed from Big Cypress National Preserve
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In 2020, more than 650 people registered to participate, with as many as 18 snakes turned in to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s check stations.
In 2021, participants removed 223 invasive Burmese pythons during the event. The winner — retired police officer Charles Dachton — caught 41 snakes. Dachton won the $10,000 grand prize.
Active duty military personnel and veterans who register for the competition will be eligible for additional prizes.
Such a good boy! Python Cowboy trained a cur dog named Moose to sniff out snakes
What are the categories for the Florida Python Challenge?
In 2021, there was an ultimate grand prize winner. The FWC states in an email to the USA TODAY Network that “this year we do not currently have that category.”
According to the FWC, these are the categories for 2022:
- Most pythons caught by a professional
- Most pythons caught by a novice
- Longest python caught by a professional
- longest python caught by a novice
Where is the Florida Python Challenge?
According to the FWC, “While the competition encourages removal of Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem, it does not actually take place directly in Everglades National Park.”
Sssssssuch a long snake:Record-breaking 18-foot Burmese python pulled from Collier County wilderness
We see why these snake pics went viral:Record catch! Largest Burmese python in Florida is captured
According to the Florida Python Challenge site, the removal of Burmese pythons is sanctioned in these areas during the competition:
- Big Cypress wildlife management area
- Everglades and Francis S. Taylor wildlife management area
- Frog Pond public small game hunting area
- Holey Land wildlife management area
- Rocky Glades public small game hunting area
- Rotenberger wildlife management area
- Southern Glades wildlife and environmental area
Btw, Everglades National Park celebrates its 75th anniversary Dec. 6, 2022.
When is the Florida Python Challenge?
Python removal competition runs 8 a.m. Aug. 5 to 5 p.m. Aug. 14, 2022.
How old do you have to be to participate in Florida Python Challenge?
Participants must be 18 or older; anyone under age 18 should be accompanied by a registered adult.
Is there a cost to participate in the Florida Python Challenge?
Registration fee is $25 per individual.
Do you need a hunting license to do the Florida Python Challenge?
There are two categories: professional or novice. Professionals are paid python removal contractors for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or the South Florida Water Management District. Novices are not professionals and considered “members of the public.”
Do you have to live in Florida to do the Florida Python Challenge?
Florida residents and nonresidents can participate. There is a free online training course that registrants must pass.
Can you use a dog to help in Florida Python Challenge?
In some areas of the competition, dogs are allowed to help in the Florida Python Challenge, but there are stipulations. Visit flpythonchallenge.org/participate/faqs.
Can people eat pythons caught in the wild?
If you do, heed these warnings by the FWD, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services below.
The FWC states: “Some Burmese pythons removed from the Everglades that have been tested for mercury levels had high amounts of mercury for human consumption. Though it is not illegal to eat python meat, the FWC cautions that neither the Florida Department of Health nor the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have stated that python meat is safe to consume.”
According to a November 2020 story by the Palm Beach Post, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, a decade-old study found Everglades National Park pythons carried alarming amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin that can impair brain functioning and damage the reproductive system. Pythons tested by U.S. Geological Survey research scientist David Krabbenhoft had up to 3.5 parts per million of mercury. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends against eating anything with a concentration greater than 0.46 parts per million.
“We were not used to seeing numbers like that,” Krabbenhoft told the Palm Beach Post in 2020. “These guys are just loaded with mercury.”
What does python taste like? It’s chewy, and this python hunter used python eggs to bake sugar cookies
If you are brave enough to eat python meat and python eggs, click on the “what does python taste like?” link above for the Palm Beach Post story.
For more information on the Florida Python Challenge, visit flpythonchallenge.org.
Contributing: Karl Schneider, USA TODAY Network; Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post
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