By CBSMiami.com Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s unique contest that truly belongs only in Florida! Friday, the Florida Python Challenge kicks off and this year participants have a shot at winning $10,000.

To date, more than 450 people have signed up to for the competition to remove invasive Burmese pythons from the one-of-a-kind Everglades ecosystem.

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), South Florida Water Management District and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida host the Florida Python Challenge to increase awareness about invasive species and the threats they pose to Florida’s ecology. The annual competition encourages people to get directly involved in Everglades conservation through invasive species removal.

There are categories for both professional and novice hunters.  Prizes range from $750 for the longest snake to the new ultimate grand prize of $10,000 for the person who kills the most pythons as part of the 10-day competition.

The hunt takes place across more than 1.5 million acres in South and Southwest Florida.

People interested in competing can still register through the last day of the competition, July 18 at FLPythonChallenge.org. There is a $25 registration fee and participants must complete a free online training to compete.

“The kickoff of the Python Challenge is a momentous occasion. Thanks to our partners, our sponsor and, of course, the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis for his dedication. He has spent a great deal of resources on improving the environment and the removal of invasive species like the Burmese python. We will continue to carry the torch of Everglades conservation so that future generations can enjoy this amazing ecosystem,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto.

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Kristen Sommers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the annual competition is part of a larger effort to control pythons.

“This is one of the management tools that we are using. So, it definitely helps remove pythons from the wild,” she said. “Every python matters. Every python that we can remove, and engage the public to help us in those removal efforts, is helpful.”

Estimates indicate tens of thousands of pythons could live in and around the Everglades.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis directed the South Florida Water Management District and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to expand efforts to remove invasive pythons and protect Florida’s Everglades. This Python Challenge is one of the more unique ways we are stepping up our efforts to battle these invasive pythons as well as engaging the public to help us in this fight. With the public’s help during this Challenge, we can continue to make progress against these pythons and we can continue to make the Everglades a healthier ecosystem now and for future generations,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron.

Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and negatively impact native species. They are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem in South Florida where they prey on birds, mammals and other reptiles.

A female Burmese python can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time. Since 2000, more than 13,000 Burmese pythons have been removed from the state of Florida.

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For more information on Burmese pythons, visit MyFWC.com/Python.

CBSMiami.com Team