Sen. Nelson joins python hunt in Florida Everglades

Ron Bergeron, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, handles a Burmese python during the kickoff of the 2013 Python Challenge at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center on Saturday Jan. 12, 2013. Almost 800 people have signed up to hunt Burmese pythons on public lands in Florida.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Ron Bergeron, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, handles a Burmese python during the kickoff of the 2013 Python Challenge at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center on Saturday Jan. 12, 2013. Almost 800 people have signed up to hunt Burmese pythons on public lands in Florida.

MIAMI — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is joining the hunt for Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades.

Nelson and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron planned to stalk the exotic snake Thursday as part of the monthlong "Python Challenge."

Wildlife officials say more than 1,000 people signed up for the competition that began Saturday and ends Feb. 10. The state hopes the hunters will help researchers collect more information about the pythons.

The large snakes are an invasive species and are considered a menace to Florida's swamplands. Nelson championed a federal law banning the importation and interstate sale of the species.

The Florida Democrat joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the Everglades last year to announce the ban. On Wednesday, Nelson called the departing secretary "a friend to the Everglades."

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