Hunters rewarded for Python Challenge
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Hunters cashed in on their catch, after weeks of scouring the Everglades for pythons.
No, it wasn't the Grammy's or the Oscars. The award ceremony took place at a scaly site at Zoo Miami.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission handed out cash prizes to hunters who took part in the big South Florida snake hunt. "This hunt a lot of people don't realize covered millions of acres of land in the Florida Everglades," said Everglades Council Commissioner Ron Bergeron.
Close to 1,600 people registered for the month-long Burmese python challenge. 68 pythons were killed.
Ruben Ramirez took home $1,500 for catching the most pythons. He caught a total of 18! "I think it worked out good for everybody," said Ramirez. "Nothing bad happened. I met a lot of good people."
Ruben has bagged big snakes before. He showed us a 17-footer he caught over Thanksgiving last year.
On this recent challenge, we took a ride with Ruben and two of his buddies. "If they would have told me that I would be cruising this road looking for Burmese pythons I'd say, 'You're crazy,'" said Ramirez.
Paul Shannon grabbed $1,000 for nabbing the longest python on the hunt.
His snake was a very long 14-feet and three inches. "Then we pretty much searched the islands," said Shannon. "We wear waders. We get out of the boat on the shoreline."
The python problem in the Florida Everglades has grown and has posed a big hazard for the South Florida ecosystem. "You know they eat small mammals," said Nick Wiley. "They eat anything they can catch. They are out there eating our native species."
Wildlife officials said the hunt was a big success. "I definitely suspect that we will do something in this nature again," said Wiley.
The commission also used this python challenge to educate the public about the danger of this non-native species.
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