68 Pythons Found: Why Were Burmese Pythons Killed In 2013 Python Challenge In The Everglades? [VIDEOS]

By Jason Van Hoven on February 18, 2013 1:47 PM EST

Burmese python
Burmese pythons are large constrictor snakes that can grow to 8 meters (26 feet) in length, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (Photo: Creative Commons / Mariluna)

From Jan. 12 to Feb. 10, 68 Burmese pythons were found and killed in the 2013 Python Challenge sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to reports.

An estimated 1,600 hunters scavenged a million acres of swamp and sawgrass in southern Florida for the rare and widely considered nuisance in the Everglades where state wildlife officials say there may be as many as 100,000 Burmese pythons living inside.  

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Although only 68 pythons were found and killed, wildlife officials said that their main aim of the challenge was to heighten public awareness of the invasive species.

"Thanks to the determination of Python Challenge competitors, we are able to gather invaluable information that will help refine and focus combined efforts to control pythons in the Everglades," said commission executive director Nick Wiley.

Burmese pythons began appearing in the Everglades in 1979, most likely abandoned by pet owners when the snakes got too big to handle. While they can run to 10 feet or more, University of Florida wildlife ecologist Frank Mazzotti said that the average python runs about six to nine feet.

While the pythons have no natural predators, rabbits and foxes have disappeared with raccoon, opossum and bobcat populations having dropped as much as 99 percent, according to researchers at Virginia Tech University and Davidson College and reports from the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012. Burmese pythons have become such a danger to wildlife that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banned their importation along with three other exotic snake species and their eggs.

Hunter Brian Barrows of Fort Myers won a $1,500 grand prize in the general public category for "harvesting" six pythons as did Ruben Ramirez of Miami in the permit holders category for harvesting 18 pythons, according to the Miami Herald.

Paul Shannon of Lehigh Acres won $1,000 in the general public category for catching the longest python, which stretched 14 feet, 3 inches. Blake Russ & Devin Belliston of Miami also won $1,000, but in the permit holders category, for catching the longest python, which stretched 11 feet, 1 inch.

Watch videos of the 2013 Python Challenge below.

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