First Lady DeSantis kicks off Burmese python hunt in Florida Everglades

Florida Python Challenge runs Aug. 5-14

First Lady Casey DeSantis (in red) holds an invasive python along with other state leaders in Miami. (WJXT)

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida’s annual Python Challenge began Friday at 8 a.m., and First Lady Casey DeSantis visited Everglades Airboat Expeditions near Miami to help kick off the hunt, which runs through 5 p.m. Aug. 14.

Prizes include $2,500 for the most pythons captured and $1,500 for the longest snake. Last year, the first-prize winner captured 223 pythons, while the $1,500 winner bagged a snake that was more than 15 feet long, according to News 6 partner WJXT. Snakes must be killed humanely.

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DeSantis announced that South Florida Water Management District Board Member “Alligator” Ron Bergeron was also offering an additional $10,000 bonus prize for the contest.

“We are gaining on this invasive snake that is destroying the natural food chain, and without a healthy food chain, you cannot have a healthy environment,” Bergeron said.

The snakes have virtually no natural enemies in the Everglades and have decimated native populations of mammals, birds and other reptiles.

DeSantis said Bergeron promised to let her drive the airboat when they went out for a hunt on Friday -- an adventure she called a “bucket list” item.

During Friday’s news conference, DeSantis also mentioned that one of the pythons removed from the Everglades was turned into a pair of snake-skin boots that she gave the governor for their 10th anniversary.

“They’re a little loud, but if you ever see the governor wearing a pair of python-skinned boots, that’s our 10-year anniversary present,” DeSantis said.

People must register to participate and complete an online training course for the event, which typically draws hundreds from across the country. Last year’s Python Challenge involved more than 600 people from 25 states.

Earlier in 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis said this year’s state budget includes $3 million specifically for python removal in the Everglades, including technology such as infrared sensors to locate the hard-to-see snakes in the wild. A key point of the snake event, the governor said, is to raise awareness about the threat and enable people to take part.

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About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.