Florida residents and visitors might expect to see the occasional alligator on a golf course or beach and perhaps even lizards falling from trees now and then, but a recent wildlife encounter in the Sunshine State is one for the record books.
Trained python removal agents working as contractors with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) recently captured a Burmese python measuring more than 18 feet long.
SWFMD tweeted a photo of the snake along with two of the agents.
“SFWMD, @MyFWC hunters capture and remove a record-breaking 18 foot 9-inch Burmese #python in the #Everglades,” they posted.
Just announced: SFWMD, @MyFWC hunters capture and remove a record-breaking 18 foot 9 inch Burmese #python in the #Everglades! Learn more: https://t.co/X1MGkEvgGY #invasivespecies pic.twitter.com/oXLdRIL3RG
— South Florida Water Management District (@SFWMD) October 8, 2020
South Florida’s Python Elimination Program was created to help the state deal with invasive snakes that are not native to the region. Originally kept as pets, the snakes were either released or escaped into the wilderness and continued breeding (female pythons can lay up to 100 eggs at a time). The predators have become a severe threat to Florida’s native ecosystems, preying on small wildlife and competing for food with larger animals. They are said to have a breeding population in the tens of thousands.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and Conservancy of Southwest Florida also work to track and control the species.
“Burmese pythons have established themselves as an apex predator throughout the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, and they literally are eating their way through native wildlife,” Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said in an FWS statement. “We have to stop their population growth and protect native animals before it’s too late, but I’m encouraged that our research team and partners have identified a viable way to reduce the number of adult Burmese pythons in critical areas.”
A Twitter post from Everglades Holiday Park congratulated the snake catchers and thanked them “for doing your part in protecting the Everglades ecosystem.”
CONGRATULATIONS on this ENORMOUS, potential record-breaker Burmese python catch! Thank you for doing your part in protecting the Everglades ecosystem! ð Kev Pav @feel_the_ #passion #snake #herping #biology #pythoncontractor #savetheeverglades #biology #pythonremoval pic.twitter.com/WIOwfA22Qj
— Everglades (@everglades) October 6, 2020
Along with Burmese pythons, the snake hunters seek to remove several other invasive snake species, including the following.
- Northern African Python
- Reticulated Python
- Southern African Python
- Amethystine/Scrub Python
- Boa Constrictor
- Yellow Anaconda
- Green Anaconda
- Beni Anaconda
- DeSchauensee’s Anaconda
The team works to euthanize destructive snakes humanely. So far, they have removed more than 5,000 Burmese pythons from the wetlands.
As for the record-breaking python, this snake’s skin will reportedly go into making special footballs for the 2021 Super Bowl in Tampa.