A 19-year-old snake hunter in South Florida has won this year's Florida "Python Challenge" with 28 kills.
Matthew Concepcion has competed in the yearly challenge four times, which targets Burmese pythons in the Everglades. This year, a total of 231 pythons were eradicated.
Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and are considered to be an invasive species. They threaten native wildlife, according to lorida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
So, officials came up with the challenge to help lessen the snakes' population and also damage to the ecosystem. Plus, winning the challenge comes with a reward – $10,000 for first prize in Concepcion's case.
"We see more wildlife like our alligators. Our native snakes, birds and all sorts of things," Concepcion said. "Just a couple years ago when I was hunting out west I wouldn't see anything, it was very, very slim. During the tournament when we were out there, I surprisingly saw a lot more, I saw more owls, alligators, saw a couple birds and usually that place is a ghost town which is sad."
The competition starts over the summer and lasts for 10 days. It's a challenge for a reason and draws in people from multiple states.
This year, nearly 1,000 people from 32 states – and international hunters from Canada and Latvia – came to Florida to compete.
According to the FWC, the largest snake was an 11-foot python captured by Dustin Crum, who was awarded $1,500.
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Concepcion said the largest snake he caught this year was about eight feet long. He said he usually looks for pythons in the grass, water or in the road, but this year he mainly hunted near a levy.
"There has to have been a nest within a quarter mile, so every night we would go to that same spot the snakes would be there, surprisingly, so we got lucky," he said.
He would spend all night hunting snacks, usually starting around 7 p.m and ending by 6 a.m. the next morning. Out in the wild, as one would expect, it's not just snakes, but other creepy-crawlies that call the wild home – spiders, and plenty of them.
"Every time I am out there I am scared to be out there. You don't know what's going to crawl in the truck. I've had venomous spiders, poisonous spiders, black widows, brown recluse," Concepcion said.
But, he's a passionate hunter and he has a dream to catch the largest snake in Florida history one day.
Concepcion plans on hunting pythons for a long, long time.
"I will hopefully be in the paper one day for the largest snake in Florida."