Win $1,500 for catching Burmese pythons

Challenge allows public to compete

DAVIE, Fla. - Think you can catch a $1,000 snake? The state wildlife commission is enlisting the profit motive in the fight against the Burmese pythons that have colonized the Everglades.

The 2013 Python Challenge will be held next month on South Florida's public hunting lands, with members of the public invited to compete for cash prizes. Winners will receive $1,000 for catching the longest snake and $1,500 for catching the most.

The event will begin Jan. 12 at the University of Florida's Davie campus with a day-long open house on pythons and other invasive species.

From there, it will off to the wilderness, with competitors allowed to catch snakes in any of four state wildlife management areas: Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, Rotenberger and Big Cypress. The prizes will be awarded in separate contests for the general public and for state-licensed python hunters.

A hunting license is not required, except for participants under 18.

"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 commission'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."

Participants must take an online training course, with additional training available at the Jan. 12 event. The python must be killed in a humane manner, using a firearm or other methods outlined in the training materials. The dead pythons must be brought within 24 hours to one of three drop-off locations in Davie, Miami and Naples. For a complete list of rules, go to http://www.pythonchallenge.org.

The competition is being sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, The Nature Conservancy, The Future of Hunting in Florida, Zoo Miami and other organizations.

Missing from the list of python-hunting areas is Everglades National Park, the area with the most severe python problem, where federal law prohibits hunting.

Prizes will be awarded Feb. 16 at Zoo Miami.

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