FORT MYERS, Fla. − Hunters in South Florida caught the largestBurmese python ever measured, and the lengthy beast is being examined at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples.
The 19-foot python was caught in the Big Cypress National Preserve in eastern Collier County early Monday morning by Naples hunter and Ohio State University student Jake Waleri, who said the catch was a dream come true.
“I knew we were capable of it but I didn’t know it would happen,” Waleri said. “Last year my cousin and I caught a snake that was almost 18 feet long, and we realized we could handle a snake of that size.”
Capturing the 19-footer was “insane” and “very chaotic,” Waleri said. After struggling to subdue the snake, Waleri jumped on it.
“At first I just held on to the tail for dear life. And then one of my friends took a net and tried to pin its head down, and we quickly realized that was not a winning strategy,” said Waleri, who has been hunting snakes since 2020. “It’s the only snake that’s scared me so much that I didn’t know what to do”
When did pythons invade Florida?
Burmese pythons first appeared decades ago and have since established themselves as a permanent feature south of Lake Okeechobee. They’ve wreaked havoc on local wildlife, and scientists say most of the fur-bearing animals in the historic Everglades are gone.
South Florida has now produced the two longest Burmese pythons on record. The previous record was 18 feet, 10 inches, and that snake was caught about 35 miles west of Miami in October 2020.
“It’s concerning because these snakes are getting bigger every year,” Waleri said. “We need to pull these big females out of the ecosystem before they lay eggs.”
‘Snakes are getting bigger every year’
Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist Ian Easterling said Wednesday the snake likely laid more than 100 eggs recently and was in search of its next meal.
“They’re getting huge while eating our native wildlife,” Easterling said. “The bonus is that these guys that captured it, they brought it to us for the official measurements, so we’ll be collecting the genetic information and the diet information and other data.”
Easterling said the female does not have eggs inside it.
“It’s their 49th snake they’ve captured,” Easterling said. “It’s their catch, their snake, and they caught it in an area we rarely go to.”
The FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program allows pet owners to surrender nonnative or exotic pets without penalty. Visit MyFWC.com/PetAmnesty for more information.
This article by Chad Gillis was first published by AOL on 12 July 2023. Lead Image: From left, Ian Easterling, from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and amateur Burmese snake hunters, Jake Waleri and Stephen Gauta display a world record 19 foot Burmese python, Wednesday, July 12, 2023 caught by Waleri and friends in the Big Cypress National Preserve on July 10, 2023. Waleri and several friends caught the large snake. They brought it to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to have it officially documented.
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