Florida man catches 28 Burmese pythons to win top prize in annual state challenge

A 19-year-old Florida man has won the top prize in the 2022 state Florida Python Challenge after capturing and disposing of dozens of reptiles.

Matthew Concepcion won the final prize of $10,000 after catching 28 Burmese pythons during the annual competition, according to a press release from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation this week..

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the challenge had once again “produced impressive results” after 231 invasive pythons were removed during the 10-day competition.

“The removal of these snakes is one of the many efforts we are making to restore and maintain the Everglades ecosystem,” DeSantis said.

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A Burmese python is photographed in the Everglades region of southern Florida.

A Burmese python is photographed in the Everglades region of southern Florida.
(FWC photo by Andy Wraithmell)

Nearly 1,000 people from 32 states, Canada and Latvia descended on south Florida in August to participate in the challenge, which was created to “raise awareness of invasive species and the threats they pose to Florida’s ecology,” the FWC said.

Dragon hunters could enter the competition as professionals or novices and compete for prizes. There was also a separate military category for veterans or active participants.

Prizes won range from $2,500 for Most Pythons Caught to $750 for Longest Pythons. This year’s financial reward was provided by the following organizations:

  • Bergeron Everglades Foundation – $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize
  • Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands – Military Grade
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Cynthia Drollinger – remaining categories
Florida Fish & Wildlife officials, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others are hosting the Burmese python for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge.

Florida Fish & Wildlife officials, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others are hosting the Burmese python for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge.
(FWC photo by Andy Wraithmell)

Fish & Wildlife Conservation President Rodney Barreto said the challenge is a win for the Everglades and the people of Florida because every python removed is “one less hunt for our native birds, mammals and reptiles.”

According to the FWC, Burmese pythons are not native to the Sunshine State, and their presence in the Everglades ecosystem and South Florida negatively affects native species because a female Burmese python can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time.

More than 17,000 wild Burmese pythons have been removed from the state of Florida since 2000, the FWC said.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the annual Florida Python Challenge.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the annual Florida Python Challenge.
(FWC photo by Andy Wraithmell)

“Our python hunters are passionate about what they do and care deeply about Florida’s precious habitat. We are removing record numbers of pythons and will continue to do so,” said South Florida Water Management District Board Member “Alligator Ron “Bergeron.

Bergeron went on to thank Governor DeSantis for supporting Everglades restoration and protection “since day one of his administration.”

In addition to the Florida Python Challenge, the FWC said residents can continue to control non-native species by removing and humanely killing pythons. This can be done at any time on private property with the consent of the landowner and on 25 commission-managed properties in South Florida.

The Burmese python, a species not native to the area, has been captured in southern Florida.

The Burmese python, a species not native to the area, has been captured in southern Florida.
(FWC photo by Andy Wraithmell)

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Non-native fish and wildlife can also be reported to the FWC’s Invasive Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org or by downloading the IveGot1 smartphone app.

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