The photo of a Burmese python captured earlier in the month by a python researcher who regularly works in Florida’s Everglades National Park has gone viral. The massive snake, measuring just over 18 feet long, is close to being a record-breaker. And although the size of the Burmese python seen in the photo is remarkable, what isn’t seen in the photo is the enormous problem snakes like it have become in the Sunshine State.
CBS Miami reported July 28 that a Burmese python, a type of constrictor not native to the United States, was captured in the Snake Valley area of Everglades National Park that measured 18-feet-3-inches in length. That placed the giant snake, a female that had not given birth, just a few inches short of Florida’s record. The researcher, who has a permit to actually hunt and study the pythons, reportedly found the snake along a tram road in the park on July 9.
The state record-holder of size belongs to a python captured in rural Miami-Dade County in 2013. That massive snake, also a female, was measured at 18-feet-7-inches in length and weighed 128 pounds. A photo of the snake stretched out on a floor with three adult humans laying beside it went viral. Prior to the snake’s capture, the record was held by a python measuring 17-feet-7-inches — which makes the latest capture likely the second-largest ever caught in Florida.
The recently captured snake was used to train National Park Service and US Geological Survey interns who work on invasive species control projects, providing them with a specimen with which to gain experience around the reptiles. Linda Friar, spokeswoman for Everglades National Park, said the snake was later humanely euthanized.
US Geological Survey officials note that snakes of 18 feet in length and weighing about 150 pounds are regularly removed from the Everglades. They said that the constrictors can ingest animals as large as deer and alligators.
But Burmese pythons have become a problem in southern Florida, especially in the Everglades where the reptiles, having no natural enemies themselves, have proliferated for the last few decades. According to a report in Smithsonian Magazine in 2011, it is believed the animals were first introduced to the Everglades around 1979. A study conducted over several years and published in 2011 followed the eating habits of the giant constrictors with regard to bird species and suggested what should be done. Skip Snow, an Everglades biologist, took the study and came up with a three-part plan to tackle the problem: education, prevention (keeping new exotic snakes out of the Everglades) and suppression (killing as many pythons as possible).
As CBS Miami notes, it is now illegal for Burmese pythons to be brought into the United States. And the python population explosion in the Everglades is headline news on a fairly regular basis, so the education and prevention parts of the plan have been somewhat covered. The latter part of the plan — suppression — has been especially difficult to carry out, however.
Experts estimate that there are at least 100,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades these days. Although some are rounded up, captured, and killed (like the latest specimen), even organized python hunts like The Python Challenge conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which pulled in 1,500 hunters with the lure of prizes and money, netted less than a hundred of the beasts.