MIAMI(CBSMiami) - Governor Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the opening of registration for the 2021 Python Challenge in the Everglades.
"This will be a ten-day challenge from July 9th until July 18th. Participants who remove the most pythons and who capture the longest pythons will receive prizes at the end of the competition," said DeSantis.
The governor said as part of his focus on restoring the Everglades he's charged the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with taking more innovative approaches to remove invasive Burmese pythons, which can grow to 20 feet in length, weigh up to 200 pounds, and cause major damage to the ecosystem.
"I mean, they these things will eat everything, and we spend all this money and we want to do all this stuff to restore. But yet if they're just running roughshod over all the other species, you know, that's not what we want," said DeSantis.
Those interested in taking part in the challenge can register at flpythonchallenge.org. All Florida Python Challenge participants are required to take the free online Training Module and pass the quiz with at least an 80% before registering.
WATCH: Gov. DeSantis Announces Opening Of Registration For Python Challenge
The governor said progress has been made in removing the invasive species.
"We've expanded access for python removers into state parks, as well as worked with the U.S. Department of Interior to increase access to federal lands for python removal, particularly within the Big Cypress National Preserve. As a result of our efforts, the FWC had a record year for python removal in 2020. It was about a 35 percent increase in the number of pythons year over year between 2019 and 2020. And of course 2019 - 1817, those years were much better than they were four or five years previous to that," he said.
DeSantis said since he became governor, the FWC has removed about 13,000 pythons. He added that recently the FWC has come up with some new ways to spot and remove the big snakes.
"For example, FWC is training a Python detector dog team. They're also working with the University of Central Florida to create infrared vehicle cameras to help us detect pythons. You look it's very hard to find these I mean people will look all day. It's not easy. So if we can harness technology to help us identify them more quickly and easily, you're gonna see even more pythons being removed," he said.
DeSantis said a year ago when the pandemic hit, some predicted the state's budget would be in dire straits as a result of the fallout. He said that was not the case.
"You know, we've had incredibly strong revenue growth because we've had incredibly strong economic activity compared to what the forecasts were. So we were able to not only fully fund python programs at FWC. We also funded numerous other wildlife conservation environmental programs. We also had a huge amount of money for Everglades restoration and for water quality and water infrastructure," said DeSantis.
The governor said in this year's budget, which he signed on Wednesday, the legislature actually ended up doing more than what he asked for and no one would have thought that would have been possible just two or three years earlier.
"So we are making huge progress with Everglades. We're on the offensive. We're going to continue to do it. And I know that it's something that's important for a lot of Floridians."
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