MIAMI (CBS Tampa/AP) — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is joining the hunt for Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades.

Nelson and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron planned to stalk the exotic snake Thursday as part of the monthlong “Python Challenge.”

Wildlife officials say more than 1,000 people signed up for the competition that began Saturday and ends Feb. 10. The state hopes the hunters will help researchers collect more information about the pythons.

The large snakes are an invasive species and are considered a menace to Florida’s swamplands. Nelson championed a federal law banning the importation and interstate sale of the species.

“These snakes don’t belong in the Everglades,” Nelson said in a statement to WKMG-TV. “They’re causing real problems in one of Florida’s greatest treasures.”

The Florida Democrat joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the Everglades last year to announce the ban. On Wednesday, Nelson called the departing secretary “a friend to the Everglades.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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