SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Florida Python Challenge 2020 Python Bowl has kicked off in the Everglades, and the first day brought Miami-Dade County’s mayor to the event.
7News cameras captured Mayor Carlos Gimenez at Markham Park in Sunrise as he held down a python in front of news crews, Friday.
The mayor was showing how to safely catch one of the large reptiles.
“It was good to have the training and have the professional right next to me,” said Gimenez, “and if you just pin their head, and you’ve got control of the snake, then it’s pretty easy after that.”
The event, organized by the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, is part of a conservation effort to bring attention to South Florida’s Burmese python problem at a time when the area commands the national spotlight.
“There’s 70 protected species out in the Everglades, and this python is wreaking havoc on it, and we need to protect the indigenous animals,” said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee.
Participants got to learn how to catch these big snakes for the 10-day competition.
The invasive species has devastated the populations of animals who naturally call the Everglades their home.
“The largest portion of Miami-Dade is the Everglades, and this species, the python, this invasive species is destroying the ecosystem of the Everglades,” he said. “They’re killing a lot of the native animals in the Everglades, and so we need to start reducing the number of this invasive species.”
The point of the challenge is to remove as many pythons from the Everglades as possible through Jan. 19.
The more pythons that are removed, organizers said, the better chance all those species have of bouncing back.
Gimenez said he is looking forward to having all the hunters start removing the non-native animals from the Everglades, and now that it’s mating season, they might be easier to spot.
“The great thing about this Python Bowl is that you’ve got over 500 people that are gonna be out in the Everglades, capturing pythons, taking them out of that environment, so that the animals that belong there, that are part of the ecosystem, can again start to rebound,” he said.
While the reptiles have no natural predators and pose a threat to the natural wildlife, they are not venomous, so while a bite might hurt a snake hunter, it’s not going to kill them.
“We need to get people educated, get them trained, so that if they ever see a python in the Everglades, take the initiative, take it out,” said Gimenez.
Participants who catch the most pythons will be in the running for one of two all-terrain vehicles provided by Bass Pro Shops. The person with the longest python caught could win $2,000.
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