First Lady Casey DeSantis Kicks Off Florida Python Challenge® Competition
MIAMI — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis joined hundreds of competitors to kick off the 2022 Florida Python Challenge®. Over 800 participants and counting, from 32 states and Canada, are beginning their search to find and remove invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem. Participants are eligible to win thousands of dollars in prizes while removing Burmese pythons from the wild as part of the competition that kicked off today at 8:00 a.m. and runs through 5:00 p.m. on August 14. Additionally, the First Lady announced the milestone of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)’s python removal contractors removing more than 10,000 Burmese pythons from the wild in Florida.
“I am excited to kick off the 2022 Florida Python Challenge® by going out into the Everglades to join those coming from near and far, both novices and professionals, to hunt pythons – today marks another year of innovative conservation strategies to protect Florida’s beautiful natural resources for generations to come,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “This is significant because every python removed is one less invasive species preying on our native birds, mammals and reptiles. Our family will continue to support conservation efforts in the Everglades, and today I’m doing that by being one of the first out to hunt this invasive species.”
Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, FWC, South Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida host the Florida Python Challenge® to increase awareness about invasive species and the threats they pose to Florida’s ecology. The annual competition encourages people to get directly involved in Everglades conservation through invasive species removal.
“Florida’s wildlife and unique landscapes are like nowhere else in the world,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “The proactive leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis has been instrumental in providing us with the resources we need to remove harmful invasive species such as the Burmese python, and events like The Florida Python Challenge® provide an opportunity for the public to become personally involved in this important effort to protect our spectacular natural resources.”
“Thanks to the tremendous support of Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, conservation and the protection of our natural resources in Florida remains a top priority,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. Through the partnership we share with the South Florida Water Management District, python contractors, and the dedicated participants of the Florida Python Challenge®, we remain unified to explore and implement the methods to control this invasive species in order to make a lasting impact in the protection of our treasured Everglades ecosystem.”
“Removing invasive pythons from the Everglades ecosystem is one of our agency’s most important goals,” said Florida Depatment of Environemntal Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership in coordinating this effort among state agencies, the South Florida Water Management District and researchers to address the Burmese python infestation, and for giving the public an opportunity to engage in ecosystem restoration. The participants in this year’s Python Challenge will play a pivotal role in helping to preserve and protect the Everglades.”
“I thank Governor Ron DeSantis and our First Lady Casey DeSantis for fighting to save America’s Everglades and protect Florida’s natural resources,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron. “With the strong support we receive from the DeSantis Administration, we are removing record numbers of pythons from the Everglades while restoring this important ecosystem. Everyday citizens play a big part in this fight through the annual Python Challenge and add to the important work of our hardworking professional python removal agents. Let’s save the Everglades!”
“Wow, more than 10,000 pythons! Florida is making monumental progress on our Everglades restoration efforts and the fight against the harmful Burmese pythons thanks to the support of the DeSantis Administration,” said SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett. “We are grateful for our partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the public during this year’s Python Challenge. Your efforts make a difference, and we appreciate the Governor’s and First Lady’s commitment to our precious natural resources.”
Participants in both the professional and novice categories can win cash prizes of up to $2,500 for removing the most pythons. There will be additional awards for the longest pythons removed in both categories. This year, Edison National Bank is sponsoring thousands in cash prizes awarded to eligible active-duty military and veteran participants.
People interested in competing can still register through the final day of the competition, August 14. There is a $25 registration fee and participants must complete a free online training to compete.
Visit FLPythonChallenge.org to register for the competition, take the online training, learn more about Burmese pythons and the unique Everglades ecosystem and find resources for planning your trip to south Florida to participate in the Florida Python Challenge®.
About invasive Burmese pythons
Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and negatively impact native species. They are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem in south Florida where they prey on birds, mammals and other reptiles. A female Burmese python may lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time. More than 17,000 Burmese pythons have been removed from Florida since 2000.