New Winner Announced for State’s Python Challenge

Bill Booth of Bradenton, Fla., wears a dead Burmese python he caught during the month-long “Python Challenge” in the Florida Everglades.

MIAMI (AP) _ There’s a new winning snake in the state’s “Python Challenge.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Sunday that Blake Russ of Fruitland Park should have won $1,500 for bagging the longest Burmese python.

Russ competed with hunters holding special permits for harvesting pythons.

he wildlife commission celebrated the end of the competition at Zoo Miami Saturday, doling out awards to the event’s top hunters.

Ruben Ramirez and his team Florida Python Hunters walked away with $1,500 for snagging the most pythons — a whopping 18 — as well as $1,000 and $750 prizes for catching the longest and second-longest snakes in the permit holder’s portion of the contest.

Ruben Ramirez of Miami was given the prize Saturday for a snake more than 10 feet long. Wildlife officials say Ramirez will keep his prize money.

Russ will get $1,500 of his own for a snake more than 11 feet long.

University of Florida professor Frank Mazzotti says the mix-up was his mistake.

Unlike other snakes killed in the hunt, Russ’ snake was released with a tracking device.

Among competitors without the python permits, Paul Shannon of Lehigh Acres won $1,500 for 14-foot-3-inch snake.