TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Calling all snake hunters. The state of Florida wants you.
Actually, Florida wants you even if you've never hunted snakes. And there's cash at stake.
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is inviting anyone and everyone to join a special snake-hunting mission called the 2013 Python Challenge.
Florida is trying to rid the state of dangerous Burmese pythons. It's believed thousands are slithering around South Florida.
The Python Challenge invites people to hunt the snakes on public lands.
The hunt starts this Saturday. There are two divisions: one for the general public, the other for python permit holders.
The contest will award cash to the winning hunters in each division: $1,500 for capturing the most Burmese pythons and $1,000 for nabbing the largest one. The largest Burmese python ever documented in Florida was 17 feet long.
Florida's Exotic Species coordinator Kristen Sommers hopes the challenge teaches Floridians never to release nonnative animals into the wild.
"We encourage responsible pet ownership. In fact, FWC sponsors amnesty events throughout the year where nonnative animals can be relinquished to the FWC and they're found new homes."
Floridians who decide they no longer want to keep a nonnative species as a pet can call 1-888-IVEGOT1 (483-4681) and the state will find the animal a new home.
State law now prohibits people from selling or owning Burmese pythons as a pet. Federal law bans the importation and all interstate sales of the snakes.
If you want to join the snake hunt, you can register online at PythonChallenge.org.
The hunt kicks off at the University of Florida's Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center on Saturday at 10 a.m.