This week, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced that it will bring back its Python Challenge in 2016. The FWC is calling for brave Floridians to capture—or at least spot—Burmese Pythons, the very-large, bunny-eating snakes slithering around the Everglades. For scale, here’s a photo of two men holding one snake:
The python challenge was last held in 2013, when about 1,600 participants caught 68 snakes. That figure might seem low, and didn’t put much of a dent in the Everglades’ Burmese Python population (there are tens of thousands in South Florida) but scientists still called it quite a feat. The snakes camouflage well and are generally quiet. Biologist Cheryl Millett, one of the partners of the 2013 challenge, told National Geographic at the time that 68 was "a little more than I expected.”
Next year’s event is still in very early stages, FWC Exotic Species Coordination Section Leader Kristen Sommers told Fusion in a phone interview. Registration will open in October, and the actual challenge won’t kick off until January. The challenge, Sommers said, is really about raising, and maintaining, public awareness of the problems posed by pythons to the Everglades. “We definitely want to increase public awareness about Burmese Pythons. This is an opportunity to engage the public in a conservation effort.”
In 2013, first-place winner of the general competition Brian Barrows captured six pythons and took home $1500. The first-place winner of the permits holders competition, Ruben Ramirez, also nabbed a $1500 prize—but he captured 18 pythons.
She clarified that this isn’t a hunting event, per se. “We’re not framing this as a hunting activity. It’s more for the public.” No hunting licenses are required, and people can get involved just by learning how to identify the snakes, and let the FWC capture and remove the snake. You know, in case you’re not comfortable handling a constrictor that devours rabbits and is twice your height.
If, however, you are into hands-on snake removal, you can do that. “We do have experts who will teach you how to hand capture a snake and/or how to handle one, and how to identify it out in the field,” said Sommers. Those trainings are available year-round.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.