A Miami man won three cash prizes for hunting snakes in Florida's Python Challenge, then donated his winnings to help a little girl with cancer.
Ruben Ramirez and his veteran Florida Python Hunters team won $1,500 for bagging the most pythons -- 18 total -- in the permit holder's division of the contest, along with $1,000 and $750 for longest and second-longest in the same category.
The general competition division was won by Brian Barrows of Fort Myers, who killed 6 of the invasive species in an area outside of Weston. The award for longest went to his teammate Paul Shannon of Lehigh Acres, who shot a massive 14-foot, 3-inch python. (View photos below.)
"The head was as big as my hand," Shannon told the Associated Press. "I have nightmares about that vision of it coiled up, ready to strike again."
The monthlong contest in the Florida Everglades attracted nearly 1,600 hunters from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada, organizers said, including Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida).
But though just 68 snakes were harvested from among the estimated 150,000 descendants of discarded pets threatening the state's most delicate ecosystem, state officials deemed the highly publicized hunt a success.
"In our view that number -- the number that were harvested, taken out of the ecosystem -- was an unprecedented number of samples that will help us answer questions about pythons and make us more effective at tackling this problem, removing them from the system," Nick Wiley, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's executive director, told the AP. "We're going to learn so much."
Prizes were awarded Saturday morning at Zoo Miami, drawing FWC commissioners, hunters, hoards of media, the curious, and a chef who cooked up meals from invasive species.
The Miami Herald asked Shannon, a home health aide, if he planned to party with his cash winnings.
"Hey, we party every night," he told the paper. "We live in Florida. Life is a party."
Unless you're a raccoon, bobcat, or opossum, that is.