It’s here, folks! The 2023 Florida Python Challenge! This yearly competition allows snake hunters to capture and kill Burmese pythons humanely, a nonnative and invasive species primarily found within Florida’s Everglades, for a chance at a $10,000 grand prize.
Burmese pythons are a considerable threat to all of the native wildlife that lives in the Everglades and the overall ecosystem. The challenge raises awareness about the snakes while also helping to keep their populations down.
Snake hunters from across the U.S. and internationally come to Florida to participate in this event. Last year, I personally met wannabe snake wranglers from 11 different states.
The event is a 10-day challenge that awards money and prizes to competitors in two divisions, professional and amateur, who catch and kill the most Burmese pythons and/or the longest Burmese python. This year’s challenge runs from August 4-13, 2023.
I will be there for the entire competition, doing my best to be successful. I’ve got a pretty good team assisting me this year, and one member’s sole role is as a volunteer for pithing each of the pythons, the act of driving a sharp knife through their head to scramble their brain. My team’s personal python pither will be Mrs. Anne Stratton of Vero Beach.
Anne reached out to me back in May, through this column, to tell me that her top-most bucket-list item is to participate in the Florida Python Challenge and kill an invasive python. And at the age of 82, I figured it was about time to get the job done. Three other wonderful women round out my team, Miss Ariel Dixon of Bushnell, whom I partnered with last year; Miss Angelia Swanson of Isla Morada; and Miss Sheila Nand of Key West! I hope folks wouldn’t mind offering up a prayer of success for my teammates and me.
One thing I think we’re each looking forward to is being followed around during the competition by a film crew from New York City for a documentary film in which I’ve been invited to star in. As we scour the backroads and levees throughout the Everglades, I will get to tell everyone the history of the unusual wetlands, the people and the native ecosystems. There really is no other place like it in the world.
Aside from driving the roads and levees, we will be doing a lot of wading out to the small island dotting the landscape of the River of Grass, searching for pythons that are staging along the island’s shores in order to hunt. I’ll give you updates from the field next week and let you know if Miss Anne got to pith herself a snake.
If any of you have any questions or comments about this week’s column, I’d surely love to hear from you at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!