Record-breaking python discovered in Florida Everglades

Deep in the Florida Everglades, a team from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida made a shocking discovery when they encountered something they’ll likely never forget. The largest Burmese python the team of three had ever seen was only a few feet away from them.

Although the snake was caught in December, scientists only announced the discovery last Tuesday National Geographic recently published an exclusive article about the python.

According to the wildlife sanctuary, this Burmese python broke the invasive species record for the largest ever captured in Florida. The nearly 18-foot python weighed a whopping 215 pounds, about the size of a shipping container, shattering the 2016 record 140 pounds. And that’s not the only record for Sunshine State snakes: This female python was also pregnant and bore 122 eggs.

Led by environmental science project manager Ian Bartoszek, the team that captured the python included biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley. To locate female snakes, the group uses male snakes, called “scout snakes,” which are usually smaller than the females and easier to find. The team can locate the female snakes by tracking the scout snakes as they search for a mate.

In December, when the team tried to locate one of the scout snakes named Dion, they heard a rustle in a nearby undergrowth. Trying to locate the noise, the crew spotted the python—significantly larger than Dion—and without skipping a beat, all three jumped on the extremely large reptile to contain it.

After struggling with the hose for about 20 minutes, the team was able to carry it back to the truck, Easterling said in a statement. press conference on Wednesday

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Invasive Species Lab announced record-breaking developments with its documentation of the largest python found to date in Florida at a press conference on June 22, 2022. The female python weighed a record 215 pounds and was nearly 18 feet long. in length. (The Conservancy of Southwest Florida)

“She put up a good fight,” Easterling said, adding that the snake puffed up its tail and waved at the team. Findley, the intern, chased a lunge from the python, but Easterling wasn’t so lucky and got punched in the face with her tail.

In 2014, Bartoszek and his team were shocked to find the first 100-pound python, which was considered to be on the larger side of the scale at the time. Two years later, the team discovered the 140-pound Burmese python, which until recently held the record for the largest of its kind in the state.

“We don’t really consider pythons big until they weigh more than 100 pounds, so now I need a new description for a 200-pound python,” Bartoszek said. “It’s just the next level for us.”

The wildlife sanctuary has been tracking and trapping pythons for nearly a decade to protect the native species of the Everglades. By capturing and studying these unique creatures, Bartoszek and his team can better understand how many of these pythons remain in the wild and what their diets consist of.

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS)researchers estimate that tens of thousands of pythons thrive in Florida.

When asked how old the snake was, Bartoszek explained that Burmese pythons don’t necessarily grow through age, but rather through consumption. Studying the huge python resembles a crime scene, Bartoszek said, as the researchers look through the contents of the python’s stomach to determine the snake’s diet.

“The last meal this animal had was a white-tailed deer,” Bartoszek said, pointing out that most pythons are big game hunters.

A Burmese python (Everglades National Park Service/R. Cammauf)

And this python isn’t the first to hunt deer. In fact, the white-tailed deer population has been dwindling since pythons took over the Everglades. Due to the overconsumption of white-tailed deer by the python, the Florida panther population, which also fed on the white-tailed deer, has declined and is now considered endangered. The New York Times reported.

According to the USGS, several other mammal declines in the Everglades have been linked to the Burmese python. In 2015 a study confirmed that the Burmese python is now the primary predator in the Everglades, taking over from the native Florida alligator.

“It’s just unbelievable what they’ll devastate when they get there,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in a June 17 news conference. “These snakes destroy the natural food chain and you can’t have a healthy environment without a healthy food chain.”

After being introduced to the Everglades in the 1980s as a result of the exotic pet trade, Burmese pythons have thrived in the area, the Times reported. However, the owners didn’t know what to do with the pythons when they grew too big to manage, and many released them into the wild.

The USGS describes the Burmese python as “one of the most worrisome invasive species in Everglades National Park.”

Native to Southeast Asia, the Burmese pythons have genetically adapted to their new environment in the Florida Everglades. Getting the pythons out of the Everglades is a real challenge, officials said.

DeSantis said more than $3 million has been spent removing pythons in Florida. To remove more pythons more efficiently, contractors have used the state’s money to develop better tools and technology to detect these large snakes.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a June 16, 2022 media event in Miami, where he announced that registration for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge has opened for the annual 10-day event set to take place in August. The Python Challenge aims to engage the public in the conservation of the Everglades by removing invasive species of the Burmese python. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“The Everglades is, of course, a diverse ecosystem, and we protect this ecosystem in several ways,” DeSantis said.

A summer program made by the state and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWS) called the Florida Python Challenge allows and encourages the public to hunt and remove pythons for a price.

“This challenge allows the public to work directly hands-on on the restoration of Everglades,” said DeSantis. “You can win prizes and of course you will be doing a public service.”

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