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Everglades Pythons? Challenge Accepted.

Everglades Pythons? Challenge Accepted.

If you've been following the news here at NRA Family, then you may already know that Burmese Pythons present an ever-increasing problem to the delicate ecosystem of the Florida Everglades. These large snakes are often purchased as pets and then released by their owners when they grow too big to handle, and unfortunately, this invasive species is thriving in the Everglades climate. Hunting seasons have been opened on the reptiles in an effort to curb their population, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hoping to do more. The latest weapon in their arsenal against this non-native species? Toy snakes.

Yes, toy snakes. You see, the FWC has introduced a new program to bring awareness of the Burmese Python and other non-native species
—and the damage they do to the Everglades—called the 2016 Python Challenge. The aim of the 2016 Python Challenge is to promote Everglades conservation through invasive species removal. Part of the Challenge is a Virtual Snake Finding Mission, in which the FWC "releases" toy snakes near popular Florida landmarks. The search for the toy snakes ̶ which are superimposed on pictures of Florida landmarks ̶ allows people from all over the world to be part of this effort to reduce the negative impacts of nonnative species.

The Challenge began Tuesday, Dec. 8 and is going on right now. Participants can visit Facebook.com/MyFWC for a clue to where one of the brightly-colored toy snakes is virtually hiding. The first person to match their answer will win a Python Challenge Prize Pack, which includes a mixture of Python Challenge items like a T-shirt, tumbler, sticker hat and bag. Naturally, the toy snake is included too. What's more, every winner of the Virtual Snake Finding Mission will be entered in a grand prize drawing for a $100 Bass Pro Shops gift card.

"The search for these snakes is designed to remind people that they can get involved and help be a part of the solution to invasive species in Florida," said Kristen Sommers, Wildlife Impacts Management section leader for the FWC. "The FWC hopes that the 2016 Python Challenge activates more people to go out, look for and either properly report or (when possible) remove Burmese pythons from the wild."

The 2016 Python Challenge is a conservation effort that includes an awareness event, social media contest and a month-long competition to remove Burmese pythons from public lands in Florida. The python removal competition in south Florida kicks off on Jan. 16, 2016, and ends on Feb. 14.

Visit PythonChallenge.org for details about the Virtual Snake Finding Mission, as well as Python Removal Competition rules, registration, training and more.

To report nonnative fish and wildlife, call the FWC's Invasive Species Hotline at (888) 483-4681, report your sighting online at IveGot1.org or download the IveGot1 smartphone app.

For more information on Burmese pythons and other nonnative species in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/nonnatives.

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