Florida Snake Hunter Wins $10,000 in Everglades Python Competition

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Anup Shah/Getty Images)

A snake hunter in Florida recently won $10,000 in the Everglades for hunting invasive pythons. The 2022 Florida Python Challenge officially named its winners as the competition has drawn to a close.

Overall winner Matthew Concepcion removed 28 Burmese pythons from the Everglades. He won the Ultimate Grand Prize courtesy of the Bergeron Everglades Foundation. The $1,500 prize for the longest python went to Dustin Crum with a snake measuring 11 feet and 0.24 inches.

The Florida Python Challenge lasts 10 days, and over that 10 days, 231 invasive pythons were removed from the Everglades.

“Once again, the Florida Python Challenge has yielded impressive results with hundreds of invasive pythons being removed from the wild,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “Removing these snakes is one of the many efforts we are employing to restore and maintain the Everglades ecosystem.”

The Challenge saw nearly 1,000 participants this year. People came from 32 states, Canada, and even Latvia to participate in the snake hunt. There were various prizes for Most Snakes Caught, Longest Snake, and military prizes for those categories as well. Additionally, the categories were also split into professional and novice prizes.

What’s the Point of the Florida Python Competition?

The Florida Everglades is a delicate ecosystem, and Burmese pythons are quickly taking over. The pet trade introduced pythons into the Everglades, and people released their pet snakes into the wild. According to the Everglades Foundation, for every Burmese python you see in the Everglades, there are up to 1,000 that you don’t.

Steve Davis, the Everglades Foundation’s chief science officer, spoke to Newsweek in June of this year. He explained the immense problem that the snakes pose to the vulnerable ecosystem. “The detection capacity for pythons is very low,” Davis explained. “I’ve seen estimates of 100 to 1,000 other pythons for every one python we see—1,000 being the extreme high end.” But, he continued, “That range may have changed as efforts like the python challenge help to improve our understanding of where they are and how to find them.”

Burmese pythons have no predators in the US. They can also lay clutches of up to 100 eggs, so their numbers grow seemingly unchecked. There are estimates that there are up to 100,000 pythons in Florida. That’s where the Python Challenge comes in.

In 2012, US Fish and Wildlife banned the importation of four different types of pythons. But, US Fish and Wildlife admits that they should have acted sooner.

“People might argue the ultimate boundaries, but there’s no part of this state that you can point at and say that pythons couldn’t live here,” said Frank Mazzotti, an associate professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, in a news release from 2012. “They’re capable of surviving anywhere in Florida, they’re capable of incredible movement—and in a relatively short period.”