Florida has a python problem. Invasive Burmese pythons love the climate and conditions in the state, and they're impacting native wildlife, particularly in the delicate wetland ecosystem of the Everglades. Now there's one less python to worry about there, thanks to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, an environmental advocacy organization that's been working to remove the snakes from the wild.
On Wednesday, the Conservancy announced that its wildlife biologists had captured the most massive Burmese python yet found in Florida. The female, found in December 2021, measured in at almost 18 feet (5.5 meters) long and tipped the scales at 215 pounds (97 kilograms). Compare that to an that was the same length but weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms).
The researchers tracked down the snake through a program that uses radio transmitters implanted in male snakes. "How do you find the needle in the haystack? You could use a magnet, and in a similar way our male scout snakes are attracted to the biggest females around," biologist Ian Bartoszek said in a statement.
In a press conference, the researchers said the snake put up a fight and they had to wrestle her for 20 minutes before they were able to restrain her.
Captured snakes are euthanized. An examination found 122 developing eggs inside the female. "This finding sets a new limit for the highest number of eggs a female python can potentially produce in a breeding cycle," the organization said, calling it a record-breaking discovery. The snake had also recently dined on an adult white-tailed deer.
National Geographic published an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the research program and the capture of the jumbo snake.
The Conservancy has so far netted more than 1,000 pythons. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, also runs multiple python removal programs, including a public competition that rewards python removal with monetary prizes.
"The removal of female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the breeding cycle of these apex predators that are wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem and taking food sources from other native species," said Bartoszek. "This is the wildlife issue of our time for southern Florida."