17-Foot Python In Florida Breaks Record, Park Officials Say
In the Florida Everglades, a team of invasive species researchers got more than it bargained for – a 17-foot-long python, plus 73 developing python eggs.
On Friday, Big Cypress National Preserve announced in a post to Facebook that its team of researchers had discovered the largest python ever to be removed from the swamp.
The pregnant female weighed 140 pounds, though presumably some of that was egg weight.
They found the record-breaking python using a new, and intuitive, tracking method — tagging male pythons and following them on their quest for female mates.
The python was captured and killed, according to The Washington Post. Preserve officials explained that they don't kill the pythons because they are snakes; they kill them because they are an invasive species.
"They are being humanely euthanized because they are having a huge, negative impact on native animals such as deer, wading birds, and even Florida panthers by taking away food from the endangered native Panther," preserve officials wrote. "Rescues are already over-crowded with unwanted pet snakes. It is not fun in any way to euthanize these creatures, but it is done to protect the many native species that do live in Big Cypress National Preserve.
Pythons are invasive to Big Cypress, so the preserve's resource management staff works with the U.S. Geological Survey to "locate and remove" breeding pythons from the area.
Thousands of Burmese pythons live in the wild all over South Florida, according to a National Park Service fact sheet. Pet owners either release them on purpose when they get too big, or by accident when hurricanes sweep through the state.
The invasive species is numerous and lethal. Pythons kill animals and birds by squeezing them until they pass out.
A 2011 study found that sightings of some of the python's favorite foods — rabbits, foxes, raccoons, white-tailed deer and opossums — have gone down by more than 90 percent in the Everglades, while python sightings have been on the rise.
Without any natural predators in North America, pythons rule the roost.
But the slippery serpents may have met their match in Big Cypress' research team. Between 2000 and 2009, more than 1,000 pythons were captured and removed from Everglades National Park.
NPR's Matthew S. Schwartz contributed to this report.