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It's that time of year again to hunt pythons in Florida

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Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Competition begins Friday to eliminate large invasive snakes that threaten native wildlife in Florida’s Everglades.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 10-day 2022 Florida Python Challenge is designed to help eradicate the thousands of Burmese pythons that have become well-established in South Florida by offering hunters cash prizes that range from $1,500 for the longest snake to $2,500 for the most kills.

Additional prizes are offered for active-duty military personnel and veterans. The cost to participate in the hunt is $25 and those registering must pass a 30-minute online training program.

Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto called the python challenge part of the state’s larger effort to control the invasive snakes.

“There is so much money being put into the Everglades to restore it, we need to make sure that once that’s complete, that we eradicate this non-native animal,” Barreto said.

The snakes are “destroying the natural food chain,” according to South Florida Water Management District Board member Ron Bergeron.

“You can’t have a healthy environment without a healthy food chain,” he said recently. “So, it’s extremely important to the environment.”

The hunt is confined to the 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 and the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area.

More than 16,000 snakes have been removed since 2000.