Building on the success of its 2013 Python Challenge, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida Inc. (Foundation) announced details of the 2016 Python Challenge, a conservation effort that includes public outreach on invasive species and a month-long competition to remove Burmese pythons from public lands in Florida. The Challenge will take place in a larger geographic area than the 2013 Python Challenge. The FWC is working in coordination with several state and federal land management agencies, including Everglades National Park, to provide access to additional public land areas during the competition. According to Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, “We look forward to expanding access into the Park and to providing more opportunities for members of the public to become approved authorized python agents. I hope that our increased participation this year will engage the public and highlight the scientific work that is being done to care for our public lands.” The dates of the python removal competition in South Florida are set for January 16 – February 14, 2016. Participants will be able to sign up as an individual competitor or as part of a team of up to five people.
“We’re launching the 2016 Python Challenge because Burmese pythons continue to be a significant issue in the Everglades,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “We hope these efforts will increase sightings and removal of pythons over the long-term in this valuable ecosystem.” The aim of the 2016 Python Challenge is to promote Everglades conservation through invasive species removal, and the FWC and the Foundation are also increasing opportunities for the public to receive training so they can help. Training events will teach participants how to identify, report and then safely and humanely capture Burmese pythons. “The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida is proud to partner with the FWC and Everglades National Park on this exciting conservation program,” said Foundation Chairman Rodney Barreto. “If you are interested in learning more or want to help promote or sponsor the 2016 Python Challenge, we encourage you to visit the Python Challenge website.” Details about upcoming training events, competition rules, registration, prizes and events will be posted at PythonChallenge.org as they are finalized. To report nonnative fish and wildlife, call the FWC’s Invasive Species Hotline at (888) IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), report your sighting online at IveGot1.org or download the IveGot1 smartphone app. For more information on Burmese pythons and other nonnative species in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/nonnatives.