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Florida to host statewide python-hunting contest

In this Aug. 10, 2012 photo provided by the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers, from left, Rebecca Reichart, Leroy Nunez, Nicholas Coutu, Claudia Grant and Kenneth Krysko examine the internal anatomy of the largest Burmese python found in Florida to date, on the University of Florida campus.

In this Aug. 10, 2012 photo provided by the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers, from left, Rebecca Reichart, Leroy Nunez, Nicholas Coutu, Claudia Grant and Kenneth Krysko examine the internal anatomy of the largest Burmese python found in Florida to date, on the University of Florida campus.  (AP/University of Florida)

Wildlife officials hope a competition will help raise awareness about Burmese pythons and get them out of public lands in South Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Wednesday the 2013 Python Challenge. Python permit holders and the public will compete to see who can harvest the longest and the most Burmese pythons.

Wildlife officials say the goal is to help people understand why the nonnative species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife. Another goal is to collect information on the python population in South Florida and enhance research and management efforts.

The challenge kicks off Jan. 12.

Florida currently prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species.