2013 Python Challenge™
2-16-2013

2013 Python Challenge competitors turn in 68 Burmese pythons

Competitors in the 2013 Python Challenge™ trekked through more than a million acres of swamps and sawgrass in search of the well-camouflaged Burmese python. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today announced the results: 68 Burmese pythons harvested during the Jan. 12 through Feb. 10 competition.
The goal of the Python Challenge was to heighten public awareness about this invasive species yet it also proved to be an unprecedented opportunity to gather important data about Burmese python populations and their impact on the Everglades ecosystem.
“Thanks to the determination of Python Challenge competitors, we are able to gather invaluable information that will help refine and focus combined efforts to control pythons in the Everglades,” FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley said. “The enthusiastic support from the public, elected officials, conservation organizations, government agencies and researchers gives hope that we can make progress on this difficult conservation challenge by working together.”
At the Python Challenge Awareness and Awards Event at Zoo Miami on Feb. 16, FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron and Wiley congratulated and presented trophies to the top competitors. Nearly 1,600 people from 38 states, the District of Columbia and Canada had registered for the competition.
Wiley thanked sponsors of the 2013 Python Challenge™ who provided prize money and other donations to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida in support of this event. Sponsors included Commissioner “Alligator Ron” Bergeron, Rachel Dodd, the Felburn Foundation, the Flowers Foundation, Golight Inc., Hoorag Bandanas, Incinc, K-Light Solar Lantern and Flashlight, Florida Wildlife Federation, Richmond Criminal Law and Mr. B. R. Slocum. Due to the generosity of sponsors, additional prizes were added.
Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species. The public can help the fight to control invasive species such as Burmese pythons by:
Reporting sightings of exotic species to 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 or www.ivegot1.org/. It’s helpful if you can submit a photo and location.
Not releasing an exotic pet into the wild, and reminding others of the dangers of releasing nonnative species.
Go to PythonChallenge.org for additional information.
1/12/13:
Nearly 800 people are registered and ready to compete to see who can bring in the longest and the most Burmese pythons from designated public lands in south Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced today at the 2013 Python Challenge™ Kickoff in Davie.

For competitors, the challenge is to harvest the well-camouflaged Burmese python, which can grow to more than 17 feet in the wild in Florida, with the chance of winning prizes of up to $1,500. Registrants are coming from more than 30 other states. They will have from 1 p.m. today through midnight on Sunday, Feb. 10 to find these nonvenomous constrictors.

For the FWC, the primary goals of the Python Challenge™ are to raise public awareness and increase the agency’s knowledge base regarding this invasive species and how to better understand and address impacts on the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.

“The 2013 Python Challenge™ is an unprecedented effort to focus public interest, support and direct involvement to help deal with Burmese pythons,” said FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright at the kickoff news conference. “The FWC is pleased that so many people are joining this earnest effort to limit the impact of this invasive species on Florida’s diverse native wildlife. Floridians and people from all across the United States truly care about the Florida Everglades, and they are clearly eager to help us better understand and solve this problem,” Wright added.

“When they harvest snakes, Python Challenge™ competitors will be collecting valuable data that will contribute to the current Burmese python research and management efforts of the FWC and its partners,” Wright said. “We are grateful to Python Challenge™ participants, sponsors and partners for helping make this event happen.”

FWC officials today welcomed competitors and the public to the 2013 Python Challenge™ Kickoff at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, which is in Davie. People attending the kickoff had the chance to get a close-up look at captive Burmese pythons, learn from experts how to identify these snakes and witness demonstrations of python-handling techniques. UF held its annual open house featuring work by faculty and students addressing invasive species in Florida.

The kickoff is the first of two public awareness events. The Python Challenge™ concludes with an Awareness and Awards Event on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Zoo Miami.

There are two separate Python Challenge™ competitions: the General Competition for the public and the Python Permit Holders Competition for people who have permits from the FWC and other agencies to regularly harvest these snakes. Both groups will be collecting data. When dropping off a harvested Burmese python, participants must submit data sheets providing information such as the snake’s size, GPS location and habitat where it was found.

Grand prizes of $1,500 for harvesting the most Burmese pythons will be awarded to winners of both the General Competition and the Python Permit Holders Competition, with an additional $1,000 prize for the longest Burmese python harvested overall. Funding for the prizes is provided by sponsors and through registration fees.

People can sign up for the Python Challenge™ at any time during the Jan. 12 to Feb. 10 competition, even on the final day. Go to PythonChallenge.org for the required online training, official rules and registration, as well as information on the public events.

The key sponsors of the 2013 Python Challenge™ are the Felburn Foundation and Flowers Foundation. Many partners, including the University of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, The Future of Hunting in Florida, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Zoo Miami, are providing important support for the Python Challenge™.

The FWC’s partner agencies have also played a critical role in these efforts; they include South Florida Water Management District, Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species. The public can help the fight to control invasive species such as Burmese pythons by:

Reporting sightings of exotic species to IveGot1.org, 888-IVEGOT1 (888-483-4861) or by using the free smart phone app IVEGOT1 for iPhone and Android. It’s helpful if you can submit a photo and location.
Not releasing an exotic pet into the wild, and reminding others of the dangers of releasing nonnative species.
Additional information about the 2013 Python Challenge™ can be found at PythonChallenge.org.


Orig. Media Release 12/2012:
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is announcing the 2013 Python Challenge™ with its goal of increasing public awareness about Burmese pythons and how this invasive species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.

As part of the Python Challenge™, both the public and Florida’s python permit holders are invited to compete to see who can harvest the longest and the most Burmese pythons.

On Jan. 12, the Python Challenge™ Kickoff will initiate a month-long program of harvesting Burmese pythons from public lands, and the public can see and learn more about these large constrictors. The kickoff is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center, which will hold its invasive species open house that day.

“The FWC is encouraging the public to get involved in helping us remove Burmese pythons from public lands in south Florida,” said Kristen Sommers, head of the FWC’s Exotic Species Coordination Section. “By enlisting both the public and Florida’s python permit holders in a month-long competitive harvesting of Burmese pythons, we hope to motivate more people to find and harvest these large, invasive snakes. The Python Challenge gives people a chance to sign up for a competition to see who can catch the longest or the most pythons.

“Part of the goal of the Python Challenge is to educate the public to understand why nonnative species like Burmese pythons should never be released into the wild and encourage people to report sightings of exotic species,” Sommers said. “We also expect the competitive harvesting of Burmese pythons to result in additional information on the python population in south Florida and enhance our research and management efforts.”

Grand prizes of $1,500 for harvesting the most Burmese pythons will be awarded to winners of both the General Competition and the Python Permit Holders Competition, with additional $1,000 prizes for the longest Burmese python harvested in both competitions. Funding for the prizes is provided by Python Challenge™ sponsors. The largest Burmese python documented in Florida was more than 17 feet in length.

Complete information on the Python Challenge™, including how to train and register for the competitions and more about upcoming south Florida events, is available at PythonChallenge.org.

Many partners, including the University of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, The Future of Hunting in Florida, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Zoo Miami, are involved in the Python Challenge™.

Florida currently prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species.

The Python Challenge™ will conclude with a free Awareness and Awards Event on Feb. 16 at Zoo Miami. Educational talks and exhibits will be available for all ages, with chances to encounter live Burmese pythons, meet the experts who research and capture them, and learn about protecting the precious resources of the Everglades ecosystem, including its native birds, mammals and reptiles. The winners of the General Competition and Python Permit Holders Competition will be presented with their awards.
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