17-Foot Python In Florida Breaks Record, Park Officials Say

On Friday, Big Cypress National Preserve announced in a post to Facebook that its team of researchers had discovered a 17-foot python, the largest one ever to be removed from the swamp.
On Friday, Big Cypress National Preserve announced in a post to Facebook that its team of researchers had discovered a 17-foot python, the largest one ever to be removed from the swamp.
Big Cypress National Preserve/Screenshot by NPR

In the Florida Everglades, a team of invasive species researchers got more than they bargained for – a 17-foot-long python, plus 73 developing python eggs.

On Friday, Big Cypress National Preserve announced in a post to Facebook that its team of researchers had discovered the largest python ever to be removed from the swamp.

The pregnant female weighed 140 pounds, though presumably some of that was egg-weight.

They found the record-breaking python using a new, and intuitive, tracking method – following male pythons on their quests for female mates.

Pythons are invasive to Big Cypress, so the preserve's resource management staff works with the U.S. Geological Survey to "locate and remove" breeding pythons from the area.

Thousands of Burmese pythons live in the wild all over South Florida, according to a National Park Service fact sheet. Pet owners either release them on purpose when they get too big, or by accident when hurricanes sweep through the state.

The invasive species are numerous and lethal – they kill animals and birds by squeezing them until they pass out.

A 2011 study found that sightings of some of the python's favorite foods – rabbits, foxes, raccoons, white-tailed deer and opossums – have gone down by more than 90 percent in the Everglades, while python sightings have been on the rise.

Without any natural predators in North America, pythons rule the roost.

But the slippery serpents may have met their match in Big Cypress' research team. Between 2000 and 2009, more than a thousand pythons were captured and removed from Everglades National Park.

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