Python hunters show some success in Fla.

Posted: 01/16/13 at 9:35 pm EST      Last Updated: 01/16/13 at 10:55 pm EST

WEST BROWARD, Fla. (WHDH) -- A group of hunters made the catch of the day. A reptile roundup has been underway in the Everglades and hundreds are trying to cash in.

Dennis Jordan and his friends hunted down an 11-foot Burmese Python. "There is a lot of luck involved," said Jordan. "You gotta spend some time out there."

Over the next few weeks, Jordan and roughly 800 other snake hunters will be spending hours in the massive marsh known as the Everglades.

The state is sponsoring an eight-month-long python hunting contest with cash going to who kills the most pythons and who kills the longest.

The contest started just this weekend and already over a dozen snakes, some about a dozen feet in length have already been hunted down. "Rather than say I'm surprised," said Biologist Frank Mazzotti, "I think I'd say I'm pleased."

The biologist with the University of Florida blames the non-native snakes for damaging the already fragile ecosystem. The pythons are decedents of pets people have released into the Everglades. "There are two top predators out here now," said Mazzotti.

Biologists like Mazzotti said, potentially tens of thousands of pythons are in the area. Mazzotti said the bigger the python, the more important its capture. "It takes a lot of food to grow a python to that size," said Mazzotti.

Mazzotti believes just one of these snakes has eaten hundreds of native mammals and birds in its lifetime, and if it wasn't killed it would have devoured hundreds more.

So sportsmen like Jordan aren't only sharpening their aim, they are also improving the ecology of the 'glades. "They're a non-native species," said Jordan, "and they need to be eradicated."

Senator Bill Nelson will be on site Thursday to take part in the python hunting contest. The person who catches the longest snake will receive $1,000. The person who catches the most snakes will win $1,500. The Python Challenge continues until Feb. 10.

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