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Thursday, May 19, 2022

FWC: 68 pythons captured — and one was 14 feet, 3 inches long

The Burmese python population in the Everglades is now a bit smaller — 68 pythons smaller, to be exact.

On Monday, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the 2013 Python Challenge results. About 1,600 competitors participated in the hunt for the cold-blooded critters, which began Jan. 12, according to an FWC press release.

UF biology staff members, including Joy Vinci, an office manager for UF’s Wildlife Department Research and Education Center in Ft. Lauderdale, verified, measured and weighed the 68 pythons. They then necropsied and examined the snakes.

Biologists plan to use the data collected from the competition to test tissue samples for heavy metals, radioactive isotopes and the python’s diet, Vinci said.

“We’re going to try to do a very quick turnaround for publication on this,” she said. “We’re hoping sometime in the next couple of months.”

The snakes’ population exploded during the last couple of years in their predator-free environment. The competition began as a fun way to remove the snakes, said FWC spokeswoman Diane Hirth.

“The goal of the python challenge was always to raise awareness about these invasive species and their impact on the Everglades,” she said.

The $1,500 grand prize for harvesting the most Burmese pythons went to two hunters. A $1,000 prize went to two other hunters for the longest captured snake. Paul Shannon won in the general competition category with a 14-foot, 3-inch-long python, and Blake Russ won in the python permit category with an 11-foot, 1-inch-long reptile.

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