VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Florida snake hunters are coming home with a lot of trophies this week, calling the 10-day "Super Bowl of python hunts" a success for the Florida Everglades.
The Python Bowl just wrapped up in the Miami area with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tallying 80 pythons harvested during the event.
Isaac Rempe and Kevin Officer, who run Volusia County’s Affordable Wildlife Removal, returned home to Deltona Monday with two pythons they nabbed in the hunt.
"They're between 6-foot, 7-foot,” said Rempe, laying the bodies of the snakes in the team’s truck bed to examine.
The duo, who hunt regularly in South Florida, pointed out that these two snakes were much skinnier than many they’ve seen in the Everglades in the past.
Rempe said that’s a good sign for the attempts at population control in the Everglades, as it indicates the giant reptiles are struggling to find food sources.
The Python Bowl was set up by FWC and the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, along with others, to add some competition to regular python hunting efforts and raise awareness of the issues the invasive species is causing in the Everglades.
Pro grand prize winner Mike Kimmel won an ATV for capturing eight pythons.
In a Skype call with FOX 35 News on Monday, he said the snakes he took during the competition were far from the largest he’s encountered in South Florida, but made up a good haul nonetheless.
Kimmel said taking home the top prize in the competition was great, but as a regular in the fight against the invaders, it’s the awareness from the event in front of the national audience of the big game crowd that’s the real victory.
"Absolutely, we're out there to protect and to save the Everglades and this competition was great in spreading awareness of doing that,” Kimmel said.
Rempe and Officer said despite small signs of promise, the situation in the Everglades remains serious.
"The Everglades should be full of wildlife and we're not seeing it,” Rempe said. “This [the pythons] is the wildlife we're seeing."
The Burmese Python is not native to the Florida Everglades, but was introduced into the environment years ago.
Since then, the population has exploded and the state has had to license hunters to try to combat the spread as the snakes devour the native species that belong there.
Some hunters fear those snakes are adapting to conditions more and more and could soon move farther north in the state to look for new food sources.
So, Rempe and Officer said continuing the effort is crucial.
After all, Officer pointed out that one Burmese Python can lay upwards of 80-100 eggs in a year, meaning the spoils from this hunt could be replenished easily.
"One clutch-worth yeah, but one less snake is good because it's not eating a gator or any native wildlife,” Officer said.
Other winners from the Python Bowl include rookie grand prize winner Kristian Hernandez, who removed six pythons and also won an ATV.
Pro grand prize winner Tom Rahill won $2,000 for bagging a 62-pound python.
Several other cash prizes were also awarded.
The game’s organizing committee worked with Florida to promote the Python Bowl.
The pythons, which can grow to 20 feet, are descended from pets released about five decades ago.
Wildlife officials estimate the population may exceed 100,000.
The big serpents have been devouring native mammal and bird populations ever since.