Burmese Python in the Everglades – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Heiko Kiera
According to National Geographic, researchers used another python as bait to coax the largest Burmese python ever spotted in Florida out of its hiding place in the Everglades.
The enormous snake is a female that measures nearly 18 feet long and weighs 215 pounds–30 pounds more than the next-largest python found in the Sunshine State. The majority of Burmese pythons found in Florida range anywhere between 6 and 10 feet long, although, in their native home in Southeast Asia, the creatures commonly reach 18 feet long. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the largest can reach lengths of over 20 feet.
The invasive pythons have successfully reproduced in Florida’s southern areas since they were first introduced there in the 1970s. There, they prey on numerous local birds and mammals as well as the occasional alligator or pet dog.
Despite being larger than other native snake species in Florida, Burmese pythons are much harder to see in the extensive marshes, wooded areas, and subtropical forests of the Everglades and surrounding areas. According to National Geographic, python trackers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, a Naples-based organization, implant GPS trackers inside male pythons and then send the “scout snakes” slithering into the wild in an effort to reduce these invasive populations by luring reproductively active females out of hiding.
“Large reproductive female pythons are very important to remove from these ecosystems because they are disproportionately capable of producing many offspring,” Sarah Funck, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told National Geographic.
A 12-foot-long scout snake named Dionysus, A.K.A Dion, acted as bait for the record-setting python that the team captured.
The group then realized Dion had placed himself in a specific area of the western Everglades habitat, close to Naples. When the researchers followed their scout snake, they discovered him coiling up next to a large female. After a fierce struggle, the researchers were able to get the enormous female into a bag, which they then put in a tub and brought to their research center. Dion, in the meantime, made it through the confrontation and continued scouting for the Conservancy.
The crew carried out a necropsy on the large python after euthanizing the female snake. A record of 122 egg “follicles,” roughly spherical formations that develop into eggs when fertilized, were discovered inside the body of the animal. They discovered pieces of fur, clusters of disintegrated bone, and a piece of a hoof in the snake’s digestive tract, indicating that the animal had recently consumed an adult white-tailed deer.
According to National Geographic, Burmese pythons are thought to prey on “24 mammal species, 47 bird species, and two reptile species in the state of Florida” based on comparable necropsies performed in the past.
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Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.