The 2023 Florida Python Challenge has named its winner as the competition came to a close Friday morning.
Paul Hobbs, of Tennessee, removed 20 Burmese pythons, bringing home the $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize, courtesy of the Bergeron Everglades Foundation.
Hobbs told Local 10 News that he brought his father, brother and son because the event has become a generational tradition to compete. He started competing in the event at an early age with his dad.
“As soon as you see one, the adrenaline just kicks in and you just wrangle it and it’s on. That’s the moment,” said Hobbs.
Novice hunter Amy Siewe won a prize for the longest python captured, measuring 10 feet, 9 inches long.
Professional hunter Tom Rahill and military hunter Jeff Lince also won prizes for removing pythons that measured 8 feet, 4 inches long and 7 feet, 10 inches long.
Ultimately, the Florida Everglades was the big winner after hundreds of invasive Burmese pythons were removed from the Everglades during the nearly 10-day competition.
A spokesperson with the FPC told Local 10 News that each of the pythons can lay up to 100 eggs and become a devastating situation for the Everglades and the ecosystem when the invasive species are on top of the food chain.
“These things (pythons) can get up to 200 feet long and up to 200 pounds,” said Ron Bergeron, a governing board member with the South Florida Water Management District. “We have found a whole deer inside of a python, so it’s actually large enough and strong enough to destroy other animals.”
The yearly competition is not for the faint of heat, but Bergeron says the competition is vital to saving the lives of animals in the Everglades.
We have captured since the beginning, a decade ago, approaching 20,000 snakes that destroy our animals and throw the balance of the food chain out of balance.
Last year, 1,000 participants from 32 states, Canada and Latvia came together to remove hundreds of Burmese pythons from South Florida.
Visit FlPythonChallenge.org. for more information.