COLLIER COUNTY, FLA. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is announcing the 2013 Python Challenge with a goal of increasing public awareness about Burmese pythons and how this invasive species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.

As part of the Python Challenge, both the public and Florida's python permit holders are invited to compete to see who can harvest the longest and the most Burmese pythons.

"I think the challenge is going to be excellent its going to make a big dent in the python population that is actually taking over Florida," said Gator John, who is entering the Python Challenge.

On Jan. 12, the Python Challenge Kickoff will initiate a month-long program of harvesting Burmese pythons from public lands, and the public can see and learn more about these large constrictors.

The FWC is encouraging the public to get involved in helping us remove Burmese pythons from public lands in south Florida," says Kristen Sommers, head of the FWC's Exotic Species Coordination Section.

Grand prizes of $1,500 for harvesting the most Burmese pythons will be awarded to winners of both the General Competition and the Python Permit Holders Competition, with additional $1,000 prizes for the longest Burmese python harvested in both competitions.

The largest Burmese python documented in Florida was more than 17 feet in length.

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