Python hunt! 800 vie to wipe out invasive Florida snakes

More than 800 competitors will traverse the Florida Everglades over the next eight days in search of invasive Burmese pythons that will fetch thousands of dollars in prizes.

The python hunt officially began Friday morning and runs until 5 p.m. on August 15, according to officials who gathered in Miami to kick off the annual event.

“It’s important because every python removed is one less invasive species attacking our native birds, mammals and reptiles,” Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis said.

Since 2000, more than 17,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades ecosystem, according to a news release. Burmese pythons, which are not native to Florida, feed on birds, mammals and other reptiles. A female python can lay up to 100 eggs per year.

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Cash prizes of up to $2,500 are available in the professional and novice categories for those who remove the most pythons, officials said. There are additional prizes for the longest python in each category. Each python must be dead, with hunters being disqualified if they kill them inhumanely or kill a native snake.

So far, registered hunters represent 32 states and Canada. Entries are accepted throughout the competition. It costs $25 to register and participants must also complete an online training course.

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