Bank of the Islands CEO Geoff Roepstorff is a committed environmentalist. When not at his office in Lee County’s oldest community bank, he can often be found hunting invasive pythons deep in the Everglades. For that reason, he was thrilled to assist South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Project Manager Mike Kirkland at the check-in station for his fellow python hunters participating in the 2021 Python Challenge event.
The 2021 Python Challenge was held from July 9-18. Its goal is to remove invasive Burmese pythons from Florida’s ecosystem. During the challenge, the Burmese pythons must be removed and killed from participating areas to be considered as valid entries in the competition. Participants registered in two categories, novice or professional. Competitors can earn prizes ranging up to the $10,000 Grand Prize.
“It’s great to see my fellow hunters participating in this competition, but there’s a serious purpose that brings me to the Python Challenge,” said Roepstorff. “As a lifelong Floridian, I want to help my state government to exercise stewardship over the Everglades and the native species in that habitat. This python elimination program is essential for protecting the native wildlife we cherish.”
Governor Ron DeSantis endorsed the program and encouraged those who want to take an active role in conservation to register.
“As part of my focus on restoring the Everglades, I’ve charged FWC with dedicating more resources and taking innovative approaches to removing invasive Burmese pythons, which can grow to 20 feet in length, weigh up to 200 pounds and cause major damage to the ecosystem,” DeSantis said in a news conference at the start of the Challenge.
Following the ten-day Python Challenge, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is expected to announce the winners in August. To learn more, visit www.flpythonchallenge.org.