Almost 1,600 hunters signed up for the call to kill the non-native Burmese pythons that are a threat to the local environment of the Everglades. Sixty eight snakes in total were captured or killed. Three will be returned to the habitat, including the largest one caught, in the hope that they can lead rangers to the breeding females, and allow them to catch them.
The python will be equipped with transmitters to allow their tracking.
Officials believe the tagged snakes can lead them to thousands of well-camouflaged pythons hiding in the swamps.
'It's breeding time and females attract males, [and] we have three eager young lads sitting out there with radio transmitters,' said Frank Mazzotti, wildlife professor at UF, and organizer of the competition..
The Everglades might be home to over 100,000 Burmese pythons.
Officials said that challenge competitors covered a million acres of swamp, brush and sawgrass, yet only 68 animals were seized.
Brian Barrows of Fort Myers, won the $1,500 grand prize in the amateur category for harvesting six pythons. In the professional category, Ruben Ramirez of Miami won the same amount for 18 snakes.
Floridian Paul Shannon got $1,000 for catching the longest snake, at 14 feet, 3 inches.
Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species. So far, about 2,050 pythons have been found in Florida since 2000.
Participants were allowed to keep the skin of a harvested Burmese python, after the snake was measured for official entry into the 2013 Python Challenge. Hunters picked up their snakes' skin at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.
As far as eating them, Pythons removed from Everglades National Park all tested high in mercury levels- too high for human consumption. While it is not a violation of state rule to eat python meat., it is definitely unsafe to do so.