Huge 16-foot Python Among 223 Killed in Florida Snake Hunting Challenge

A total of 223 Burmese pythons have been hunted as part of a Florida snake removal challenge, including one that was almost 16 feet long.

The 2021 Florida Python Challenge is a state-organized event where participants are encouraged to find and destroy Burmese pythons, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) classifies as an invasive species.

The top prize of $10,000 was awarded to retired law enforcement officer Charlie Dachton, who had the help of his son Chance Dalton.

As part of their hunting efforts the pair destroyed a python nest with 22 eggs in it. In total they killed 41 of the non-native snakes in the Everglades.

Dachton, who had a serious hunting accident in 2016, thought his hunting experience would help him in the python event

Dalton told Florida news site Local10: "He called me up and said, 'Hey, you know, it's the last night of the competition. Can you come out and help me?' And I said, 'sure thing I'm there.'"

Other prize winners included the hunter who won $1,500 for catching the longest snake, at 15 foot, nine inches.

The Burmese python is one of the biggest snakes in the world. Those caught in Florida are on average between six and nine feet long, but the largest one caught in the state was over 18 feet long.

The snake is not venomous and kills by constriction, squeezing its prey to death. They can sometimes be seen in trees and are semi-aquatic.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the FWC said: "More than 600 people registered for the 10-day competition, removing invasive constrictors while raising awareness about invasive species."

The event's rules state all pythons captured must be humanely killed and presented dead at one of multiple check stations.

According to the FWC, Burmese pythons can be humanely killed on private land at any time in Florida as long as hunters have the landowner's permission.

Pythons are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty law. Unless specific area regulations say otherwise, traps, for example, cannot be used. Nor can poisons, remote-controlled firearms, gasoline or other chemical substances used to drive pythons from burrows.

The Florida Python Challenge website states that killing methods can include using a captive bolt or air gun to destroy snakes' brains quickly, and that participants will be disqualified if they are found to have inhumanely killed a Burmese python or any native snake.

The United States Geological Survey states there have been no human deaths from wild-living Burmese pythons in Florida, though the FWC notes they can pose a threat to human safety and may also hunt pets.

Research is ongoing to find out how pythons impact native mammal species.

Burmese python in tree
A stock photo shows a Burmese python wrapped around a tree branch. Over 220 of the snakes were killed in a recent Florida hunt. Lunatic_67/Getty