• New winner announced for state's Python Challenge


    MIAMI - 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 $1,000 for bagging the longest Burmese python. Russ competed with hunters holding special permits for harvesting pythons.
    Ruben Ramirez of Miami was given the prize Saturday for a snake more than 10 feet long.

    Wildlife officials said Ramirez will keep his prize money. Russ will get $1,000 of his own for a snake more than 11 feet long.

    "This hunt, a lot of people don't realize, covered million of acres of land in the Florida Everglades," said Everglades Coordinating Council Commissioner Ron Bergeron.
    University of Florida professor Frank Mazzotti said 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 $1,000 for 14-foot-3-inch snake.

    In all, 68 pythons were either captured, killed or fitted with a tracking device.

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    New winner announced for state's Python Challenge