More than 1,000 hunters armed with pillowcases and their bare hands removed 106 invasive Burmese pythons from the Florida Everglades, the largest of which was 15 feet long.
The results of the monthlong 2016 Python Challenge were announced Saturday by state wildlife officials, with a landscaper from New Jersey taking two of the top cash prizes.
Daniel Moniz of Brick Township managed to bag 13 pythons, the most by any individual, as well as the longest by any individual, measuring 13 feet.
The longest snake captured, which was 15 feet long, was a group effort pulled off by Bill Booth, Duane Clark, Dusty Crum and Craig Nicks. That same team captured the most collective pythons with 33.
The annual hunt targeted the invasive species because of its detrimental effects on the local ecosystem. The snakes are capable of growing up to 26 feet long and prove to be a top predator of the natural wildlife, including alligators and deer.
Moniz documented his dramatic hunt on a blog, where he recalled taking a snakebite to the face. He biked around 40 miles a day while tracking down the reptiles, wrestling them into submission and then carrying them back to wildlife officials on his bicycle.
"Some days were full of pythons and other days resulted in nothing but being sore and tired,” he wrote in one post.
He recalled one encounter with what he described as a 12-foot “monster female” that put up a tough fight before successfully being bagged into a pillowcase.
"This python even managed to ankle-cuff me, making it hard to move! Definitely an experience, that’s for sure!" he wrote.
In another instance, he recalled being bit in the face by a feisty 13-footer.
"The bite pierced my cheek, punctured my lip, and managed to get part of its jaw stuck in my neck. Painful, but easily masked and forgotten by the massive amounts of adrenal pouring like Niagara Falls from my adrenal glands,” he wrote alongside a photo of his bloody face.
Another photo showed where he was bit in his arm.
"Because of my experience catching snakes, I figured this challenge would be an excellent opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, camping, solitude, and catching snakes,” he wrote.
The competition started on Jan. 16 and ended Feb. 14. All contestants were required to complete a course on how to identify, locate, and safely and humanely capture the snakes, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Our staff worked hard to provide these valuable training opportunities throughout south Florida,” Nick Wiley, FWC executive director, said in a release. “We attribute much of the success to these expanded training opportunities.”
This year's challenge proved to be a monumental success, as the original 2013 Python Challenge removed 68 Burmese pythons.
“We are excited to see so many people contribute to this important effort to conserve Florida’s natural treasure, the Everglades ecosystem,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “We need to keep this momentum going now that the competition is over.”
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