A record-breaking python has been captured in a national park in Florida, according to a report from NPR. In a post on Facebook last Friday, Big Cypress National Preserve announced that it had caught the 17-foot snake, which is said to be heavily pregnant with 73 developing eggs. The team of researchers responsible for its capture say it’s the largest python ever outside of its swamp. It’s also said to weigh around 140 lbs.
Reports also state that the team used a new tracking method to hunt down the python: fitting radio devices to male pythons who are in search of a female, according to the Facebook post.
“The team tracked one of the sentinel males with the transmitter and found this massive female nearby.”
Not only do the researchers catch large snakes, they also say they collect data and develop new tools which can help them learn how pythons use the local area. This particular snake – identified as a Burmese python – was introduced into Florida’s Everglades in the 1980s and is considered an invasive species that is known to kill animals and birds by squeezing them.
In 2011, a study found that the python’s favorite foods, such as rabbits, foxes and raccoons, have been reduced by over 90 percent in the Everglades. This also coincides with the rise in python sightings in the area.
According to The Guardian, a similar sized snake was captured in 2017 in the same national park, measuring just over 17 feet in length and weighing 132 lbs.
The National Park Service says that thousands of pythons live in the wild areas of South Florida and are often set free by pet owners when they become too big or are accidentally let go during hurricanes, specifically Hurricane Andrew, which swept through the state in 1992. Since then, environmentalists have been looking for new ways to eradicate the Burmese pythons.
One method which has been used in the past by Everglades National Park scientists is by having a trained beagle. A puppy named Python Pete was taught to sniff out snakes. Sadly, the venture was short lived as Python Pete became over-exhausted in the Florida summer heat. Agencies had also been staging public python hunts between 2000 and 2009 and celebrated their 1,000th kill after a hunter named Brian Hargrove caught 110 of them, according to Orlando Weekly.
Big Cypress say its goal is to control the species, which itself has no natural predators, and poses a real threat to wildlife. They work with U.S. Geological Survey to find and remove any pythons from the area.