A record python of monstrous proportions was recently captured in the Big Cypress National Preserve, a large National Park that is part of the Florida Everglades. The snake, a Burmese python, measured more than 17-feet in length and weighed a massive 140-pounds.
The snakes are an invasive species and have been credited with decimating native wildlife in Southern Florida. Biologists estimate that there are around 150,000 pythons inhabiting the wilderness area of the Everglades. The giant female that researchers just caught also had 73 developing eggs in her.
The number of eggs the snake was carrying provides some idea of the reproductive fecundity of the invasive reptiles and why eradicating or even controlling the population is proving to be extremely difficult.
In 2013, Florida held the first Python Challenge, which encouraged people to hunt the Southeast Asian constrictors. That year, only 68 snakes were brought in. In 2017, the state allotted $175,000 to hire 25 snake hunters to kill as many snakes as they could. But these methods have hardly made a dent in the python population.
The Big Cypress National Preserve Facebook page credits a new technique with improving their success at locating the snakes, including this gigantic female python. They fit male pythons with radio transmitters. They then follow the radio signal in the hope that the male snakes will lead them to breeding females.
That's exactly what happened to enable the capture of this snake. Researchers tracked the transmitter-fitted male and found the big female close by.
But the researchers do more than simply catch the snakes; they collect data that will hopefully lead them to greater success in the future. "The team not only removes the invasive snakes," the Facebook post indicated, "but collects data for research, develop new removal tools, and learn how the pythons are using the Preserve."
This particular python is the largest captured thus far in the Big Cypress National Preserve. But it's not the biggest caught in Florida. That title goes to a Burmese python caught in adjacent Everglade National Park. That snake measured more than 18 feet long. In their native Southeast Asia range the snakes are known to exceed 20 feet in length.
It looks as though they're fast approaching that growth rate here in America.
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