'2013 Python Challenge' begins, draws about 800 hunters

Hundreds of snake trappers, hunters will capture, kill pythons for next month

By Carlos Suarez - Anchor/Reporter

DAVIE, Fla. - More than 800 python hunters were out Saturday in the Everglades, looking to capture and kill as many Burmese pythons as possible for a cash prize in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "2013 Python Challenge."

Officials say the invasive species has been taking over the Florida Everglades and the hunt is necessary to protect the rest of the wildlife.

Hundreds of amateur and  professional hunters have joined the python purge, including David Liebman, who knows a thing or two about nabbing Burmese pythons in the Everglades.  

"You're going to grab onto that tail and the snake is going to defend itself. It's going to go wild. They're very powerful." Liebman said.

He's already caught more than 50 snakes heading into this weekend's first hunt.

For the next month, about 500 amateur and professional hunters will try to catch and humanely kill the snakes.

"We need to think outside of the box and do something that's never been done before," said FWC's Jorge Pino of the first Python Challenge.

When asked about the worries of sending people into the Everglades with guns, Pino said that the hunters are trained people who have experience with guns in other settings.

"The likelihood that we're going to have some sort of tragedy or some sort of accident is slim to none, but we are prepared for anything that may arise," said Pino.

According to Pino, Saturday morning was spent going over safety tips and the "do's and don't's" of the month-long challenge at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.

"If you use common sense and basically know what you're doing or at the least understand the parameters we want you to work under, I don't think we should have any problems."

Hunters paid $25 to sign up for the month-long event. Each also had to complete a safety course online. According to FWC, participants are coming from 17 different states to take part.

Prizes include $1,000 for the longest python caught, and $1,500 for the most pythons killed.

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