Florida teen wins the top prize after catching 28 pythons during annual challenge

Burmese Pythons in the Everglades, FL – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Heiko Kiera

A 19-year-old man from the Sunshine State accomplished a great feat by capturing 28 Burmese pythons during a 10-day competition created to spread awareness about the serious threat invasive snakes pose on state ecology.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Matthew Concepcion was among the 1,000 individuals from 32 states, Latvia, and Canada. In total, 231 unwanted pythons were removed.

Many awards were given for the hard work participants completed during the challenge. Dustin Crum won a $1,500 grand prize for catching the longest python which was just over 11 feet, while Concepcion was awarded the Ultimate Grand Prize of $10,000 courtesy of the Bergeron Everglades Foundation.

Earlier this year, biologists brought in the largest Burmese python ever captured in the Sunshine State. The female python was nearly 18 feet long and weighed 215 pounds, on top of having 122 developing eggs growing inside of her. 

Florida’s anti-cruelty law protects Burmese pythons, so those who participated in the challenge were required to document that each one was killed humanely.

Concepcion told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he has been python hunting for about five years. His approach is to look for them in the evening when they are especially on the move, seeking the warmth of roads. He typically uses his vehicle lights to find them, this year, however, he only saw one in the Everglades. 

“I worked a levee, caught a couple of hatchings, and was like, ‘Dang, this might be the ticket!’ So every single night from then on, I went out there – just before sundown to sunup.”

Concepcion claims to have walked a canal while looking through the bushes with a light. He told the newspaper that because smaller snakes are so effectively concealed, he looks for their shadows cast by the flashlight beam. Larger snakes, though, are simpler to locate.

“They will have a slightly purple tint to them. They’re really beautiful.”

When asked what his plans were with his prize, Concepcion said he might use the earnings to buy a stronger lighting set-up for his truck. With this, he’ll be able to spot slithering snakes much easier.

“Alligator Ron” Bergeron, a board member of the South Florida Water Management District, said: “Our python hunters are passionate about what they do and care very much about Florida’s precious environment. We are removing record numbers of pythons and we’re going to keep at it.”

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