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Python hunter Donna Kalil has caught nearly 270 of the invasive snakes, which have decimated small mammal populations in the Everglades. Naples

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They came, they saw, they bagged them.

The 2020 Python Bowl ended recently with 80 invasive Burmese pythons caught.

The longest and heaviest of these slithering beasts was 12 feet, 7 inches and 63 pounds.

More: Python Bowl 2020: Burmese python caught on Marco Island

With more than 750 registered competitors from 20 states, Florida Python Challenge's 2020 Python Bowl came to a close during a ceremony Saturday at Bayfront Park in Miami, about a week after the hunting stopped on Jan. 19.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and South Florida Water Management District announced who captured the largest python, the longest python and the most pythons throughout the 10-day event.

"Removing these invasive snakes is incredibly important for our native wildlife, and it is a great accomplishment to have removed 80 pythons during the 2020 Python Bowl," Carli Segelson, an FWC spokeswoman wrote in an email. "However, the most important aspect of this event lies in raising awareness of the problems invasive species can cause."

The 80 snakes weighed a total of about 1,406 pounds and, if laid end to end, would be about 647 feet long.

The event's awards, sponsored in part by Bass Pro Shops, were broken up into three categories for each individual challenge: professional hunters, rookies and active service members or veterans.

"The Python Bowl takes a huge step in opening the eyes of the public that might not be aware of the challenge out there," said Bob Ziehmer, senior director of conservation for Bass Pro. "Removing snakes is important, this competition is important."

'This is my calling': Everglades python hunter brings her passion to bear in fight against invasive species

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Burmese pythons are taking over the historic Everglades. Hunts are held regularly, but the number of snakes removed is not on pace with the rate at which the snakes are spreading. They compete with and prey on native species.

Taking the grand prize for most pythons captured from a professional was Mike Kimmel, a trapper with Martin County Trapping, Removals and Wildlife Rescue. He is well known as @pythoncowboy on Instagram and YouTube.

Kimmel caught eight pythons making up 10% of the total number of pythons caught during the bowl, it was his first Python Bowl.

"I was out day and all night," he said. "In the middle of day, when it was too hot, usually from noon to 4, is when I would take a break to rest."

The weather and temperature weren't favorable for python hunting, Kimmel said, and he'd stop his hunts around 3 or 4 in the morning when it got too cold for the snakes.

"We did have weather that was a little bit on the warmer side," said LeRoy Rodgers, chief biologist for the district. "When pythons are warm, they stay out at night. We do (the event) in winter because snakes come out from their burrow to warm up during the day, but if stays warm, they don’t need to come out until night."

More: State wants to expand Burmese python hunting program, double the number of hunters

Regardless of the weather, Kimmel said he worked between 12 and 14 hours each day during the competition.

"Python hunting isn't as easy as people think," he said. "On average, you go out and catch zero to two pythons each night during the good part of the year."

Kimmel has been hunting for the South Florida Water Management District since its removal program began, but he has been out catching snakes since childhood. He works as a wildlife trapper and rescuer in Martin County and uses his python hunting skills to make use of the meat and skin to make part of his living. 

More: As state's python bowl nears, Bonita Springs residents prepare for the challenge

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Citrus Park residents in Bonita Springs get hands python catching training Fort Myers News-Press

He said he's seen a direct impact on the hunters' progress in the Everglades. Studies show nearly 90 to 99% of mammal populations in the Everglades ecosystem have declined since Burmese pythons became prevalent.

"I'm out here trying to do the right thing," he said. "The Python Bowl spreads awareness and the right message."

The python challenge was given the Python Bowl moniker due to the Super Bowl being hosted at Miami this year.

More: A nearly 18-foot python was caught in Florida. Hours later, a second one was captured.

“The Miami Super Bowl Host Committee is very proud to have worked with these partners to bring attention to the threat that invasive species pose to the Everglades,” said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. “There are many men and women who work diligently every day to combat the harmful impacts of nonnative species, and it is imperative that we are all educated on the effects of the Burmese pythons to our native wildlife.”

This was the first year the python challenge had a category for armed service members and veterans.

"Gov. DeSantis directed us to try and focus on additional support for veterans," Rodgers said. "It is a really nice addition to the program and we had 108 veterans participate."

A complete list of winners can be found at flpythonchallenge.org.

More: Burmese python caught while swimming in Naples Bay

And: FWC's Python Action team captures second-largest reptile in program history

Karl Schneider is an environment reporter. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @karlstartswithk, email him at kschneider@gannett.com

Jodie Wagner of the Palm Beach Post contributed to this report.

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