US teenager wins top prize after capturing 28 Burmese pythons


During a 10-day tournament designed to raise awareness about the dangers the invasive snakes pose to

the state's ecology, a 19-year-old South Florida boy caught 28 Burmese pythons. 

The annual challenge attracted 1000 participants from 32 states, Canada, and Latvia, including Matthew Concepcion, according to a news release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The challenge resulted in the removal of 231 unwanted pythons.

Concepcion received the US $10,000 (NZ$17,120) Ultimate Grand Prize as thanks from the Bergeron Everglades Foundation for his work. The longest python was removed by Dustin Crum, who received a $1500 grand prize. Its length was just over 3.3 meters. 

A group of researchers caught the largest Burmese python ever recorded in Florida earlier this year. According to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, that female python measured approximately 5 meters long, weighed 98 kilograms, and had 122 developing eggs.

Since Florida's anti-cruelty legislation is the only protection for Burmese pythons, participants had to provide documentation that each snake was killed humanely.

Since pythons are active at night and seek out the warmth of highways, Concepcion told the South Florida SunSentinel that he has been hunting them for approximately five years. He spots them with the help of his car's lights. 

However, this year he only saw one on the Everglades roads, so he changed tactics. After working a levee and catching a few hatchlings, I thought, "Dang, this might be the ticket!" So starting that day, I went outside every single night from just before sunset to just before sunrise.

Concepcion claims to have walked the canal while probing the bushes with a torch. He told the newspaper that because smaller snakes are so effectively concealed, he looks for their shadows cast by the flashlight beam. Larger snakes, though, are simpler to locate. 

"They will have a little hint of purple. They are extremely lovely. 

Concepcion said he might spend some of his cash to outfit his van with bright illumination so he can find more snakes.

Our python hunters have a strong commitment to their work and a deep concern for Florida's fragile ecosystem. In a news release, South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Member "Alligator Ron" Bergeron stated, "We are removing record numbers of pythons and we're going to stay at it."

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