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Florida's python challenge kills 68 snakes

Feb. 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Florida's first snake bounty hunt resulted in the killing of 68 invasive snakes, far fewer than some hunters hoped, officials said.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel said nearly 1,600 hunters took part in the monthlong hunt for the invasive species of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, which closed Saturday.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which sponsored the event, said it was a success, and the agency will likely hold another hunt in the future.

Those who killed the most snakes received cash awards at Zoo Miami Saturday, the Sentinel reported, but many spent more on the expedition than they won.

Ruben Ramirez, of Miami, won the python permit holders competition by killing 18 pythons, The Miami Herald said. He, along with his team, hunted for 27 of the 31 competition days.

Organizers initially said Ramirez also won for capturing the longest python but University of Miami wildfire Professor Frank Mazzotti said Sunday that award should have gone to Blake Russ, 24, and Devin Belliston, 26, who caught an 11 foot, 1 inch Burmese python -- 6 inches longer than the one Ramirez snagged.

Mazzotti -- who collaborated with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to design the competition -- told the Herald about the mistake in an email Sunday.

He apologized to Russ and Belliston, who did not kill their snake but released it after capture.

"I am the one who made the mistake that prevented Blake and Devin from getting the recognition they deserved," Mazzotti wrote. "I know how important, and rightfully so, the recognition of who got the longest was."

Officials will now determine whether the hunt was an effective way of getting rid of the pythons.

Some criticized the hunt and said it could have resulted in serious injuries, but only one incident occurred when two men suffered a heat stroke.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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