Levee engineers in Florida discovered a massive Burmese python in the Everglades on Tuesday, the second time a python was found to be over 18 feet in the past year. Although the python found and destroyed this week fell short of the state record by six inches in length, Reuters reported that it could set a record for the largest python seen on state lands.
Burmese pythons are considered an invasive species in the Everglades, where the animal negatively impacts native wildlife. Pythons are excellent swimmers and adapted quickly to Florida’s wetlands, where they lacked natural predators. Last year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a python hunting contest to help raise awareness for the invasive species, but hunters had a difficult time due to the python’s natural camouflage and elusive behavior. Although the state will not be bringing back the competition for 2014, biologists are still looking for solutions that will cut down on the python population. Residents that see pythons outside of the Everglades are encouraged to call wildlife authorities, who will usually dispose of the large snakes. According to Livescience, the python found this Tuesday was shot and killed by a wildlife control professional.
Last May, Miami-Dade County resident Jason Leon came across a record-setting 18-foot, eight-inch python while driving at night. An experienced snake handler, Leon attempted to remove the python from the side of the road when it wrapped around his leg. Burmese pythons are a nonvenomous constrictor species, killing their prey by squeezing with powerful muscles. Large pythons have been reported to kill and eat deer.
Leon was able to dispatch the python with a knife, cutting off its head. The carcass was later turned over to researchers for a autopsy. The python discovered this Tuesday will likely meet the same fate and be turned over to researchers at the University of Florida. Despite being shorter than the snake encountered by Leon, the python discovered by the inspection crew on Tuesday reportedly weighed 150 pounds, about 20 pounds heavier than the state record.
Image courtesy South Florida Water Management District