Palmetto Bay Teen Wrangled 28 Snakes as Winner of Florida's Python Challenge

The winner of the 2022 Florida Python Challenge is a 19-year-old from South Florida who wrangled 28 snakes in the Everglades.

"Still on cloud nine," Matthew Concepcion said. "Couldn't believe it."

For a period of 10 days, the teen from Palmetto Bay, Florida, was determined to hunt from sundown to sunup.

“Gets rough out there that’s for sure," he said. “You’ll start hallucinating out there just looking, just looking.” 

Concepcion walked the canal and went through the swamps using a flashlight.

“When they are stretched out and they don’t know you are there, it’s the best way to grab them," he said.

But it’s not that easy. Concepcion has been hunting pythons for the past five years and has been bitten five times.

“Their teeth retract backward so you have to let them bite you, and you either pour alcohol in their mouth or pray it lets you go," he said.

Concepcion joined the challenge because of the damage pythons have done to the ecosystem.

“They kill everything," he said. “The pythons have destroyed 80% of our animals.” 

Gladesman Alligator Ron Bergeron said there are thousands of pythons in the Everglades and they are multiplying quickly. The creatures are invasive and a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, he said.

“The python challenge is very important because it’s about we together to remove these snakes," he said.

Concepcion was among the 1,000 participants from 32 states, Canada and Latvia who participated in the annual challenge, which removed 231 of the unwanted pythons the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news release. 

Concepcion took home the grand prize of $10,000 courtesy of the Bergeron Everglades Foundation.

“Haha, I’ll probably just buy new lights for my truck," Concepcion said when asked what he'd do with the prize money.