Manatee trio captures most pythons of challenge

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A group of hunters from Manatee County came out on top during Florida's Python Challenge, capturing most of the 106 Burmese pythons rounded up over the last month.

The Florida Everglades is no place for Burmese pythons, but the giant invaders are living there and thriving. Florida Fish and Wildlife called on hunters to remove as many of the invasive snakes as possible. 

Nearly a third of the 106 were captured by Manatee County's Cypress Boys. The team is made up of team captain Bill Booth along with Duane Clark and Dusty Crum.

The three spent a month scouring the Florida Everglades for Pythons during the Python challenge.

"It is like finding a needle in the hay stack. I know that's a cliché thing, but there's just so much area to cover and these snakes - all they have to do is drop in this grass and they blend in so well. They are so hard to find," Booth explained.

They mostly relied on their eyes and each other, but they had some help, too. 

"This is my Python bae dog in training here Riley. She has been successful," Dusty Crum said. "It is a lot of effort. You've got to put in a lot of miles to have any type of success. Most people will walk out a couple of miles not see anything, turn around and walk out. Nobody is in for the long haul 20 miles stretch."

He added the weather, and a little luck, come into play when searching for pythons.

"Sometimes, if it's cold, they are going to lay there and it's an easy catch, but if it's a warm day, the snake is active. He's trying to strike. He's dancing with you. It's a cat and mouse game," Crum explained.

They said the moment they find one of the giant snakes brings an adrenaline rush.

"Your heart starts pounding and you are thinking, 'what do I do next?' Your approach is to always go slow up to the snake, not to spook it, and try to get the head," said Crum.

The Cypress Boys bagged 33 pythons - more than anyone else. They also caught the largest, a 15-foot python.

The trio walked away with $8,000 dollars in reward money, but said the true reward is knowing they made a difference.

"I enjoy getting out there and helping the Everglades. I grew up out there and I feel like it is my backyard, and you've got these invasive species that don't belong there. I want to do my part to get rid of them," said Booth.