Florida Python Challenge: How Long Was 2022’s Largest Python?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: May 25, 2023
© iStock.com/Lunatic_67
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Key Points:
  • Since the Burmese python was first spotted in Florida in 1979, the invasive species has reproduced at exponential rates, with a population that is currently at six figures in the Everglades.
  • The Florida Python Challenge is a multi-category competition in which hunters get to capture these pythons in an attempt to restore balance to an ecosystem at the mercy of these apex predators.
  • The longest python caught in 2022 measured 11 feet and 0.24 inches. It was removed by Dustin Crum, who also won the professional category for longest python in 2021.

The Florida Python Challenge is an annual 10-day contest that brings snake hunters from all over the world to save the Everglades’ ecosystem by tracking and eliminating Florida’s invasive pythons. If you’d like to find out the important details of this annual challenge and learn more about Florida’s invasive pythons, continue reading.

Biggest Snakes: The Burmese Python
The longest python ever caught measured 18 feet and 9 inches long.

©Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com

Why Is the Florida Python Challenge Held?

The Florida Python Challenge is a unique way to solve the Burmese python problem that plagues the Everglades. The first Burmese python ever found in Florida was spotted in 1979. Since then, the species has gone on to multiply, and hundreds of thousands of them now inhabit the Everglades. 

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This is a problem because Burmese pythons have few natural predators, and as they age and grow larger, the number of predators they have further reduces. This allows them to grow large since they have low-competition food and no natural predators, thus reaching their full lifespan and impressive sizes.

Because the Everglades’ ecosystem lacks natural predators to keep these pythons in check, they wreak havoc on the ecosystem by overhunting native species. Before 2000, red foxes, white foxes, Virginia opossums, bobcats, raccoons, and rabbits were common sights in the area. However, when experts conducted a 9-year survey from 2003 to 2011 and compared findings to a 2-year survey carried out in 1996 and 1997, the results spelled disaster.

The survey proved declines in sightings of opossums, bobcats, and raccoons. Even worse, they didn’t spot a single fox or rabbit. Burmese pythons are slowly causing other native species in the Everglades to die out at alarming rates. Some of these species are already considered threatened, and if something isn’t done, Florida’s ecosystem will suffer a great loss of even more animal species.

Where Do Burmese Pythons Usually Live?

Burmese pythons are native to Asia, including from northeast India to China and parts of Indonesia. They can be found at high elevations such as in the foothills of the Himalayas, and at low elevations such as the lowlands of Cambodia.

In their native habitats, Burmese pythons do not cause the environmental devastation they have in Florida, where the animals have no natural instinctive defense against the invasive species. In fact, these pythons are endangered in Southeast Asia as they are hunted for their skins and sold overseas as pets.

It is thought the Burmese pythons came to be in the Everglades due to pet owners releasing them, possibly to avoid the responsibilities of caring for mature snakes that reach an average length of 12 feet, or pet snakes escaping cages damaged due to stormy weather or hurricanes. Hurricane Andrew destroyed a Florida python breeding facility in 1992 that likely contributed to the number of snakes in the wild.

It’s uncertain if the pythons are able to survive the colder temperatures in habitats outside of south Florida. However, research has found that they are able to tolerate saltwater, so it may be possible for them to migrate through bays and inlets.

How Long Do Burmese Pythons Live?

Compounding the problem in the Everglades is that Burmese pythons typically live for a long time: around 25 years. In captivity, they can live even longer, for 45 years or more.

Every spring, Female Burmese pythons lay a clutch of eggs consisting of 12-36 eggs. However, much higher numbers of eggs like 50-100 have been recorded, with one report of a 17-foot Burmese python caught in 2012 that had 87 eggs inside.

Burmese Pythons Hatching
Female Burmese pythons lay a clutch of eggs every year during springtime.

©Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com

Florida Python Challenge Categories

More than 17,000 wild Burmese pythons have been removed from Florida since 2000. The Florida Python Challenge was first held in 2013 to help eradicate them from the Everglades and each year has multiple categories in which hunters compete. The contest rewards competitors who can capture the most and longest pythons. Each category has various subcategories, so 8 or more people go home with cash prizes. The “Most Pythons” and the “Longest Python” categories encourage healthy competition while saving the ecosystem.

Results of Previous Years’ Challenges

Each year, python hunters participating in the challenge capture large amounts of Burmese pythons in a short period, and some of the pythons they capture are impressively long.

In 2020, Mike Kimmel and Kristian Hernandez won the grand prizes in the Most Pythons category in the pro and rookie categories respectively. Both participants won TRACKER 570 Off Road ATVs. Kimmel removed 8 pythons and Hernandez removed 6.

In the Longest Python category, Tom Rahill and Hernandez won the grand prizes in the pro and rookie categories respectively. Rahill captured a 12-foot, 7.3-inch python, while Hernandez captured an 11-foot, 6.5-inch python. Both winners went home with $2,000.

Dave Mucci and Tom Rahill won the Heaviest Python category in the pro and rookie categories. They captured a 62-pound and 49.4-pound python respectively and were each rewarded with $2,000. According to Discovery.com, the total number of pythons captured in the challenge was more than 80.

In 2021, however, things leveled up a notch, and the total number of pythons was 223. Dustin Crum and Brandon Call won the Longest Python prizes in the pro and novice categories respectively. Crum’s python measured 15 feet and 5 inches, while Call’s measured 15 feet and 9 inches.

In the Most Pythons category, Donna Kalil and Tom Hobbs emerged winners in the pro and novice categories. Kalil captured 19 pythons, while Hobbs captured 6. However, Charlie Dachton went home with the overall grand prize for removing a Burmese python nest with 41 new hatchlings!

So, How Big Was 2022’s Longest Python?

Burmese Python
The longest python caught in the 2022 Florida Python Challenge was 11 feet and 0.24 inches.


In 2020, the longest python caught was an 11-foot, 6.5-inch python; the next year, the record was broken by the 15 feet and 9 inches specimen. However, Burmese pythons can grow up to 18 feet and 9 inches, according to the longest Burmese python ever caught. They can also get as heavy as 215 pounds, according to the largest snake ever caught in the USA, an Everglades Burmese python.

The 2022 Florida Python Challenge saw 997 participants from 32 U.S. states, Canada, and Latvia gather to remove hundreds of Burmese pythons from south Florida.

The longest python caught in the 2022 Florida Python Challenge measured 11 feet and 0.24 inches. It was captured by Dustin Crum, making him a winner in 2022 and 2021. He took home $1,500 for winning the 2022 Longest Python grand prize in the professional category.

Jeffrey Lince won $1,500 in the novice category for his catch of a python that was 9 feet, 10.68 inches.

The winners in the second place prize for the Longest Python category were pro Lindsey Floyd and rookie Ronald Kiger. Floyd’s python was 8 feet, 6.84 inches, while Kiger’s was slightly bigger at 8 feet, 9.36 inches. Each won $750.

The Longest Python Military Prize, worth $1,000, went to G. Gerdes for a python of 7 feet, 6.72 inches.

How Many Pythons Were Removed in the 2022 Florida Python Challenge?

During the 10-day competition, a total of 231 invasive Burmese pythons were removed — 8 more than in 2021. Matthew Concepcion caught 28 Burmese pythons to win the 2022 Ultimate Grand Prize and $10,000 in prize money.

The winner of the Most Pythons Grand Prize professional category was Joaquin Vila, who removed 15 pythons. The winner of the novice category for the same prize was Bruce Williams, who netted 10 pythons. Chance Dachton also caught 10 Burmese pythons during the challenge and all three won $2,500 each.

Donna Kalil, who won the Most Pythons pro category the previous year with 19 pythons, took out the Most Pythons Second Place Prize in 2022, removing 6 pythons. She earned $750 as her prize, as did Donald Straughan, who won in the novice category of the prize having caught 3 pythons.

The winner of the 2022 Military and Veteran category for Most Pythons was Kenne Helm, who was close to the grand prize pro winner’s result with his catch of 13 pythons, winning $2,000.

How Do Python Hunters Catch and Kill Burmese Pythons?

burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus)
Burmese pythons are euthanized when caught.

©Irina oxilixo Danilova/Shutterstock.com

It is important to note that the hunters participating in the challenge are experts trained to locate and capture these pythons. Burmese pythons are mostly active at night, so hunters usually go after them in low-light conditions. They often get bitten on the job, which is why proper preparation is necessary.

When they spot the python, they approach it from behind and safely grasp it, just below the jawbone, so it cannot turn or bite. Of course, they have the tools to carry out these processes. Once the snake is safely captured, they euthanize it. Although state laws do not protect Burmese pythons, there are still laws regarding how they can be killed to ensure that all snakes experience humane treatment.

The first step is to render the snake unconscious immediately so they feel no pain. This can be done with a penetrating captive bolt stunner or a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air gun. It’s important to consult official guidelines on what models and specifications of tools can be used. It is also essential to remember that the use of guns is not allowed.

Once the snake is unconscious, the next step is to damage its brain to prevent it from gaining consciousness. This step is called “pithing,” which is done by inserting a small rod into the snake’s cranial cavity. If this is done by trained hands, the python will feel no pain as it dies.

What Happens to the Euthanized Pythons?

To avoid wastage, hunters make products from the snake skins and keep or sell them. Those wanting to show support for the Florida Python Challenge can buy products made from Burmese python snake skins and help raise awareness about the problem of Burmese pythons in Florida.

Burmese Python vs Alligator

Another animal living in the Everglades whose skin is prized for goods is the alligator. Before the Burmese python was introduced, the alligator was the apex predator of the habitat. Now the two species are battling to be the dominant animal, so if a Burmese python were to fight an alligator, which would win?

Pythons, which vie with anacondas for the title of the largest snake on Earth, can grow up to 28 feet and weigh 200 pounds. But alligators, although shorter than pythons at 11 feet long, are heavier at 800 pounds, so they have the advantage in terms of size.

When it comes to senses, both are equal, but alligators’ physical defenses beat out pythons’, especially as they are capable of much faster speeds of 30 mph compared to snakes’ 2-3 mph.

Alligators are more vicious, versatile, direct, and deadly than pythons in their attacks. For a more detailed look at what would happen in a face-off between these two reptiles, go here.

So in theory, an alligator would win a fight against a python in most cases, but the situation in the Everglades shows that Burmese pythons are a formidable force in Florida.

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Burmese Python
The Burmese python is able to swallow animals as large as a deer.
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