A 19-year-old Florida man snagged the top prize in the state’s 2022 Florida Python Challenge after capturing and removing dozens of the reptiles.
Matthew Concepcion was awarded the ultimate prize of $10,000 after he caught 28 Burmese pythons during the annual contest, according to a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation news release this week.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the challenge has, once again, “yielded impressive results” after 231 invasive pythons were removed during the 10-day competition.
“Removing these snakes is one of the many efforts we are employing to restore and maintain the Everglades ecosystem,” DeSantis said.
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Almost 1,000 people from 32 states, Canada and Latvia arrived in south Florida in August to participate in the challenge, which was created to “increase awareness about invasive species and the threats they pose to Florida’s ecology,” the FWC said.
Python hunters could enter the competition as professionals or novices to compete for prizes. There was also a separate military category for veterans or active-duty participants.
Prizes won range from $2,500 for Most Pythons Caught to $750 for Longest Python. This year’s prize money was provided by the following organizations:
- Bergeron Everglades Foundation – $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize
- Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands – Military Category
- Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Cynthia Drollinger – Remaining categories
Fish & Wildlife Conservation Chairman Rodney Barreto said the challenge is a win for the Everglades and the people of Florida because each python removed is “one less preying on our native birds, mammals and reptiles.”
According to the FWC, Burmese pythons are not native to the Sunshine State and their presence in the Everglades ecosystem and south Florida negatively impacts the native species, as a female Burmese can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time.
Since 2000, more than 17,000 wild Burmese pythons have been removed from the state of Florida, the FWC reported.
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“Our python hunters are passionate about what they do and care very much about Florida’s precious environment. We are removing record numbers of pythons, and we’re going to keep at it,” said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron.
Bergeron went on to thank Gov. DeSantis for supporting the restoration and protection of the Everglades “since day one of his administration.”
In addition to the Florida Python Challenge, the FWC said residents can continue to control nonnative species by removing and humanely killing pythons. This can be done at any time on private land with permission from the landowner and on 25 commission-managed lands in south Florida.
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Nonnative fish and wildlife can also be reported to the FWC’s Invasive Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org or by downloading the IveGot1 smartphone app.