The hunter removed 20 of the snakes from the Florida Everglades
Paul Hobbs is the $10,000 winner of the 2023 Florida Python Challenge for capturing 20 Burmese pythons. Image by Heiko Kiera
A Tennessee man is $10,000 richer after winning the 2023 Florida Python Challenge (FPC).
The annual 10-day competition awards prize money to encourage participants to remove invasive Burmese pythons from designated lands in South Florida. It’s an exciting conservation effort that helps protect the rare Everglades habitat from these nonnative snakes.
At the conclusion of the 2023 competition, which ran from August 4 through August 13, a $10,000 Ultimate Grand Prize was awarded to the participant who removed the most pythons. A $7,500 Grand Prize was awarded to the runner-up, and a number of military, professional, and novice prizes were awarded to the participants with the most snakes in those various categories.
According to Local 10 News, Paul Hobbs won the grand prize for removing 20 Burmese pythons from the Florida Everglades.
Hobbs traveled to The Sunshine State with his father, Tom, who won the grand prize in 2021; his brother, and his son to hunt the snakes.
Hobbs said he participated in the contest with his family members because competing in the event has become a generational tradition. He started competing in the event at an early age with his dad.
“As soon as you see one, the adrenaline just kicks in and you just wrangle it and it’s on. That’s the moment,” Hobbs told Local 10 News.
Ronald Kigler won the runner-up prize and $7,500 by bagging 14 pythons.
Professional hunter Tom Rahill and military hunter Jeff Lince also won prizes for removing pythons that measured 8 feet, 4 inches long and 7 feet, 10 inches long.
Amy Siewe won the novice category for the longest python captured, measuring 10 feet, 9 inches long.
Hundreds of invasive Burmese pythons were removed from the Everglades during the event.
According to WPTV, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, who was present at the awards ceremony, said, "Removing these invasive pythons is an important part of our efforts to protect the Everglades, and this competition allows people to get involved in Florida's conservation efforts for one of the world's most prized natural resources. I thank everyone involved in making the Florida Python Challenge a successful event year after year, and I congratulate the winners of this year's competition."
A FPC spokesperson said each of the pythons can lay up to 100 eggs, which creates a devastating situation for the Everglades’ ecosystem as the invasive species are on top of the food chain.
Florida Fish and Wildlife estimates there are between 100,000 to 300,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades. Since 2000, more than 18,000 Burmese pythons have been removed from the region.
“These things (pythons) can get up to 20 feet long and up to 200 pounds,” Ron Bergeron, a governing board member with the South Florida Water Management District, told Local 10 News. “We have found a whole deer inside of a python, so it’s actually large enough and strong enough to destroy other animals.”