A frightening new challenge has many Floridians heading to the Everglades to battle a new and dangerous foe

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Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the entire United States.

But the fragile ecosystem of the Everglades is under assault from an invasive and dangerous species, and Florida wants to get it under control.

And this frightening new challenge has many Floridians heading to the Everglades to battle this new and dangerous foe.

Massive Burmese pythons threatening the Everglades

The flooded grasslands and swamps of the 1.5 million-acre Everglades in South Florida are one of the nation’s natural wonders.

But the ecosystem of the Everglades is now being threatened by an invasive species, the Burmese python.

Originally imported from southeast Asia as pets, many owners decided the massive pythons were simply too much to handle.

So the snakes have been released into the wild in Florida, despite the dangers.

And they have started wreaking havoc on the Florida Everglades fragile ecosystem.

The voracious Burmese pythons eat deer, raccoons, foxes, and other wildlife who inhabit the Everglades.

South Florida Water Management District’s governing board member “Alligator” Ron Bergeron recently told the Florida Phoenix that Burmese pythons “can get 200 pounds and 20 feet long and absolutely destroy the natural food chain of the Everglades.”

“And without a natural food chain, you cannot have a natural environment,” Bergeron added.

During Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992, countless pythons were released into the wild in South Florida.

No one knows for sure how many of the massive pythons are currently in the Everglades because of how well they have adapted to the environment.

To eliminate the threat posed by Burmese pythons, Florida began hosting an annual hunt for them in the Everglades.

The python hunt for cash prizes has been held annually since 2013.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District organize the annual Python Challenge, which draws in reptile hunters from around the country.

The 2024 Florida Python Challenge announced

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez recently announced that registration is now open for the 2024 Florida Python Challenge that will run from August 9-18 in the Everglades.

More than $25,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs based on who can catch the most Burmese pythons.

“The Burmese python, as many of you know, is an invasive species that has wreaked havoc on our Everglades ecosystem, and it’s a threat to native life wildlife,” Nuñez said at a press conference. “They prey upon native species. They compete with native wildlife for food and habitat, and they can also spread non-native diseases and parasites.”

Nuñez said that last year’s challenge saw more than 200 pythons removed.

And more than 1,000 people from 35 states competed in the 2023 event.

“Since we took office, I’m proud to announce that Governor DeSantis and I, we’ve been able to remove 13,000 pythons, but we know there’s a lot more,” Nuñez said. “We are really excited about this year’s challenge, and we hope it surpasses even last year’s goals and numbers.”

All participants must take a python training course before they are cleared to take part in the hunt.

While pythons are nonvenomous, their bites can still cause an infection.

South Florida Water District professional python hunter Donna Kalil told Field & Stream that it is a more hands-on experience than traditional hunting.

“I can tell you that basically all the hunters I’ve taken out were not prepared for python hunting, because it’s not even close to the same thing as hunting,” Kalil explained. “In traditional hunting, you’re using a gun or bow to kill your prey from a distance. Python hunting is hands on. You have to catch them first, then dispatch them after you get them under control. It’s totally different.”

This August, python hunters will once again have their chance to earn cash prizes as they help rid the Everglades of an invasive species.

Informed American will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.