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Wrong winner announced in Python Challenge

Feb. 18, 2013 at 3:56 PM   |   Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A University of Florida professor said he made a mistake leading to the wrong winners being announced in the Python Challenge's longest captured snake category.

Frank Mazzotti, the University of Florida professor of wildlife who helped design the challenge with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said he made an error in declaring Ruben Ramirez the winner in the longest Burmese python captured category with his 10-foot, 7-inch snake, when an 11 foot, 1 inch python was nabbed by Blake Russ, 24, and Devin Belliston, 26, The Miami Herald reported Monday.

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

Mazzotti said more than 1,600 people took part in the monthlong event in the Florida Everglades, which offered cash prizes for capturing the invasive species.

"It's pretty exciting," Belliston said of being recognized as a winner.

"The mix-up might have come up because that was the python that we didn't euthanize so that scientists could place a radio transmitter in it," Belliston said.

A total of 68 pythons were killed or captured during the challenge, organizers said.

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