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2013 Python Challenge™ FAQs

What is the purpose of the 2013 Python Challenge™?

The intent of the 2013 Python Challenge™ is to raise public awareness about Burmese pythons and how this invasive species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife. Through the 2013 Python Challenge™, the FWC and its partners will share knowledge about Burmese pythons in Florida, encourage harvest of these snakes, and highlight the importance of responsible pet ownership so nonnative species such as Burmese pythons are not released into the wild.

 

What is the 2013 Python Challenge™?

The 2013 Python Challenge™ includes two free public events in south Florida and a month-long harvesting of Burmese pythons in which the public and python permit holders are invited to compete in two separate competitions.

 

When is the 2013 Python Challenge™ Kickoff and what will happen there?

The 2013 Python Challenge™ Kickoff will be held on Saturday, Jan. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, 3205 College Avenue, Davie, FL 33314. There will be a 10 a.m. news conference announcing the 1 p.m. official start of harvesting Burmese pythons for the competitions. The Kickoff will feature trainings and talks about identifying and handling Burmese pythons. The University of Florida also will hold its annual open house featuring research and management efforts on a number of invasive species. The "Culinary Safari" chef will be cooking up dishes featuring exotic species.

 

What is the time frame for the 2013 Python Challenge™ harvesting of Burmese pythons?

It will be a month-long competition starting at 1 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2013 and end at 11:59 pm on Feb. 10, 2013.

 

When is the 2013 Python Challenge™ Awareness and Awards Event, and what will happen there?

The 2013 Python Challenge™ Awareness and Awards Event will be held on Feb. 16, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Zoo Miami, 12400 Southwest 152nd Street, Miami, FL 33177. The 2013 Python Challenge™ Awareness and Awards Event will be an "un-festival" which, rather than being a celebration of a species, will promote awareness of the threat posed by invasive Burmese pythons in south Florida. There will be a ceremony to announce the winners of the 2013 Python Challenge™. Awards will be given to the people who harvested the longest Burmese python and the most Burmese pythons in the contest's two categories: the General Competition and the Python Permit Holders Competition. This also will be your chance to view Burmese pythons up close and interact with scientists and exhibitors to learn more about the big snake's biology and behavior. Information will be presented on the as research and management programs directed at increasing what we know and can do about lessening the impact of Burmese pythons on the Everglades. Expect lots of educational activities and exhibits, mixed in with food and fun.

 

Why does the FWC want to remove Burmese pythons from the wild?

The Burmese python is a large, nonvenomous constrictor that is an invasive species in Florida. Burmese pythons are found primarily in the Everglades, where the snake represents a threat to the ecosystem, including native wildlife. Burmese pythons prey on native Florida species of mammals, birds and reptiles, as well as other nonnative species.

 

Has the FWC done anything similar to the Python Challenge™ in the past?

This is the first Python Challenge™. However, the FWC has been working to control Burmese pythons in a variety of ways. For example, the FWC has Python Permit Holders who harvest Burmese pythons and also collect data for research purposes. Also during open hunting season, licensed hunters can remove Burmese pythons from the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, Rotenberger and Big Cypress wildlife management areas (WMAs). There is also a Conditional Reptiles Season from March 4 through April 14 in three of these WMAs when Burmese pythons can be harvested.

 

Where are competitors in the 2013 Python Challenge™ allowed to harvest Burmese pythons?

Only Burmese pythons harvested in the wild from four wildlife management areas (WMAs) - Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, Rotenberger and Big Cypress - are valid entries for the General Competition. Snakes can be harvested from Big Cypress only through Feb. 1. Only Python Permit Holders (people holding permits from the FWC or other agencies to harvest pythons) can harvest snakes within other state-managed areas as allowed by their permits, and submit them as valid entries for the Python Permit Holders Competition. You will be disqualified from the competitions if you harvest and turn in a snake that is: not from one of these WMA locations; a native Florida snake; a Burmese python originally possessed as a pet; or one originally possessed for research or for commercial use.

 

Is an entry fee required in order to compete in the 2013 Python Challenge™?

Yes. The entry fee is $25. People can register at any time during the competition. See the official 2013 Python Challenge™ rules for more information.

 

Are participants in the 2013 Python Challenge™ required to take training?

Yes. All participants must take an easily accessible online training, specifically the Introduced Reptile Early Detection and Documentation (REDDy) Light Training. Additional optional training will be available at the kickoff event on Jan. 12, 2013.

 

Do participants need a Florida hunting license to take part in the 2013 Python Challenge™?

Registered participants over the age of 18 do not need a Florida license hunting or a WMA permit.  However, those under age 18 need to have a Florida hunting license.

 

Do participants need to register to take part in the 2013 Python Challenge™?

Yes. All participants must register to take part in the competition. Participants will receive a form that confirms their registration and serves as their registration for harvesting Burmese pythons. Participants must have a printout of this registration form in their possession when harvesting snakes for the competition.

 

Can people participate in the 2013 Python Challenge™ if they are not Florida residents? 

Yes.  To compete in the Python Challenge™, people who are not Florida residents are required to complete the same required online training and registration as Florida residents. The permit they receive upon registration will allow them to harvest Burmese pythons on four wildlife management areas during the Jan. 12 to Feb. 10 competition.

 

Can youth who are ages 16 and 17 participate? 

Yes, but they either need to 1) purchase a hunting license to participate, as well as be registered for the Python Challenge™ by a parent or guardian, or 2) use the Hunter Safety Mentoring Exemption option, but still need to be registered for the Python Challenge™ by a parent or guardian.  The Hunter Safety Exemption will allow the youth to be accompanied by an adult who is 21 or older, who has fulfilled the hunter safety requirement or is exempt from the hunter safety requirement.  See the official rules for more information.

 

Can youth under age 16 participate in the Python Challenge™?

Yes.  Youth under age 16 can accompany competition participants but cannot be registered as official participants in the competition.

 

How can I find out more about harvesting Burmese pythons?

The Python Challenge™ Kickoff on Jan. 12, 2013 at the University of Florida (UF) Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center marks the first day of the competition, and there will be opportunities there beyond the required REDDy Light Training online at PythonChallenge.org. Experts will demonstrate using a live python how to handle and harvest Burmese pythons. You can talk to FWC and UF staff knowledgeable about these large constrictors and the public lands where you are allowed to competitively harvest Burmese pythons for the Python Challenge™.

 

What is the information to keep with me when harvesting Burmese pythons for the Python Challenge™? 

The Toolkit posted online at PythonChallenge.org/toolkit has the key resources you will need, including your registration form that serves as your permit, the data sheet for logging a harvested snake, drop-off locations, official competition rules, guides to using GPS and humanely euthanizing a python, and how to respect Everglades habitat.

 

Can I hunt Burmese pythons without participating in the Python Challenge™?

Yes, people may hunt Burmese pythons on the same four wildlife management areas designated for the Python Challenge™ during any established hunting season and the Python Challenge coincides with small game season. Those that want to hunt pythons during the timeframe of the Python Challenge™ but do not want to participate in the competition need a valid hunting license and management area permit.

 

What should participants do once they harvest a Burmese python?

Participants must drop off snakes within 24 hours of their harvest at established drop-off locations. A data sheet also must be fully completed and submitted for each harvested Burmese python in order for it to be logged to reflect the correct competitor, snake and location. See the official rules for the 2013 Python Challenge™ for more details.

 

Can 2013 Python Challenge™ competitors keep the skins of Burmese pythons they harvest?

Yes. Registered 2013 Python Challenge ™ participants who wish to keep the skin of a harvested Burmese python should indicate this preference in the "Comments" section of the data sheet turned in with the snake at a designated drop-off location. After the snake is measured for official entry into the 2013 Python Challenge™, participants will be notified to pick up the Burmese python skin at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.

While not every Burmese python skin is marketable,  a few companies may be able to tan your Burmese python skin and return it to you or may purchase the skin from you. The following vendors have asked that we provide their information. 

All American Gator Products for a fee can tan a Burmese python skin and fashion it into something you want. Or this company will provide information on where to obtain tanning chemicals to do it yourself. Brian Woods of All American Gator indicates he may be interested in buying Burmese python skins over 10 feet in length for about $80-$100. All American Gator Products can be reached at 954-868-8100, 954-894-8803 (cell) or online at  http://www.allamericangator.com/.

Phil Kelton of Dragon Backbone also is interested in buying python skins. For a fee, he can tan them and fashion them into a product such as a wallet.  This company will trade a knife for four python skins at least four feet long.  Dragon Backbone can be reached at 352-454-7644 or online at www.dragonbackbone.com

Pan American Leathers, Inc. may also be interested in purchasing Burmese python skins. Contact them at (978) 741-4150, or info@panamleathers.com.

Joanna Clark of the Python Project may also be interested in buying Burmese python skins. Contact her at (917) 374-1569, or email joanna@pythonproject.com.

 

Can people eat the meat of pythons harvested during the Python Challenge™? 

Burmese pythons removed from Everglades National Park that have been tested for mercury levels had amounts unsafe for consumption by humans.  Though it is not illegal to eat python meat, the FWC cautions that neither the Florida Department of Health nor the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have stated that python meat is safe to consume. 

 

What if a nonnative snake that is not a Burmese python is mistakenly harvested?

All nonnative snakes should be taken to drop-off locations. However, non-Burmese pythons will be ineligible for a prize.

 

What prizes will be awarded to winners of the 2013 Python Challenge™?

Prizes in the General Competition are:

A $1,500 Grand Prize for the participant harvesting the most Burmese pythons.
A $1,000 prize for the participant harvesting the longest Burmese python.
An additional prize for which all persons participating in this competition are eligible; this will be awarded based on a random drawing.

Prizes in the Python Permit Holders Competition are:

A $1,500 Grand Prize for the participant harvesting the most Burmese pythons.
A $1,000 prize for the participant harvesting the longest Burmese python.
An additional prize for which all python permit holders participating in this competition are eligible; this will be awarded based on a random drawing.

 

When will the prizes be announced for harvesting the most and the largest Burmese pythons in the 2013 Python Challenge™?

The prizes for harvesting the most and the largest Burmese pythons will be awarded during the 2013 Python Challenge™ Public Awareness and Awards Event on Feb. 16, 2013 at Zoo Miami. Winners will be recognized in both the General Competition and Python Permit Holders Competition. The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Why doesn’t the FWC offer rewards year-round for harvesting Burmese pythons? 

The Python Challenge™ is a pilot program that the FWC will use to determine if incentive-based harvesting of Burmese pythons is an effective tool that will contribute to greater harvesting of this invasive species and on-going research and management efforts. This is the first time FWC has attempted to implement this type of program for an exotic species.  FWC will decide whether to continue this program after the Python Challenge™ has concluded and all collected data has been analyzed. 

 

Do participants need to have a python removal permit in order to compete in the 2013 Python Challenge™?

No.  Anyone may register for the General Competition of the Python Challenge™.  However, only persons with a python removal permit may register for the Python Permit Holders Competition. Python removal permit applications had to have been received by Monday, December 17, 2012 in order to be processed in time for the Python Challenge™.  The python removal permit is geared towards people who have experience capturing and handling large, aggressive constrictors and working in remote areas.  FWC considers python permit holders to be experts at catching pythons.  People who do not have experience catching wild pythons may have a better chance at winning prizes in the General Competition.

 

Can the FWC provide information on where to stay in Florida while participating in the Python Challenge™?

The FWC suggests participants contact south Florida hotels to see if they are offering any discounts. Inexpensive or free camping is available in the area; participants can contact local state parks to inquire about camping.  Everglades National Park offers inexpensive camping; more information is online at http://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm.  Free camping is allowed on certain days within the wildlife management areas included in the Python Challenge™.  Check the regulations brochures for more information.