A record-breaking monster Burmese python has been caught by two Florida hunters, measuring 5.7 meters (18.75 feet). Breaking the previous record of longest Burmese python caught in Florida by around 2.5 centimeters (1 inch), the capture of this 47.2-kilogram (104-pound) snake is being touted as a massive win for the Everglades in the ongoing battle against the invasive species.
Contracted python hunters Ryan Ausburn and Kevin Pavlidis work with Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) as part of their Python Action Team, aimed at removing the large numbers of invasive Burmese pythons that live in the Everglades. As one of the largest species of snake, Burmese pythons have powerful jaws and the ability to constrict a huge variety of animals, making them a distinct threat to the fragile ecosystems of the Everglades.
Ecstatic with his capture, Pavlidis explained the fight with the nearly 6-meter python in a Facebook post.
“On Friday night, we pulled this BEAST of a snake out of waist-deep water in the middle of the night, deep in the Everglades. I have never seen a snake anywhere near this size and my hands were shaking as I approached her," he wrote. "Every python we catch can be potentially dangerous, but one this size? Lethal. One mistake, and I am for sure going to the hospital. But more importantly, this is a once in a lifetime snake. I could go out every single night for the rest of my life and never see one this big again.”
Wrangling enormous snakes is a dangerous undertaking. Larger pythons have been known to kill and eat alligators in Florida, and removing large individuals is an important but difficult feat – one best left to professionals. Burmese pythons have no natural predators in Florida, so it is up to animal bounty hunters and organizations to remove them before they run, or slither, rampant through the Everglades.
“The removal of this behemoth Burmese python is a triumph for our native wildlife and habitats,” said FWC Commissioner Rodney Barreto in a statement.
Burmese Pythons entered the South Florida Everglades as a result of escaped or illegally released pets and quickly became well established in the tropical wetlands. The marshes and wet grasslands are perfect environments for the enormous snakes to thrive, and with little competition they have become a dire problem for the local ecosystems.
Hunters battling the species have now removed more than 5,000 pythons from the Everglades, but there is still an estimated 3,000 more to capture.