Two hunters from Florida broke existing records as they captured a Burmese python measuring 18 feet, 8.8 inches (5.71 meters), according to state authorities.
Working as python removal agents, hunters Ryan Ausburn and Kevin Pavlidis worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to catch the largest of these invasive pythons so far. The Burmese python was caught along the L-28 Tieback Canal, almost 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Miami.
A record-breaking 18' 9" 104 lbs. Burmese #python was captured! https://t.co/4f0KLAhnZz #invasive #nonnative #snake #Florida #Everglades #SFWMD pic.twitter.com/Ewa8u9KV8y — MyFWC (@MyFWC) October 8, 2020
A Triumph For Native Wildlife
Weighing at 103 pounds, or 47 kilograms, it also surpassed the previous record-holder by just one inch. The previous record for the largest Burmese python was set at 18 feet and 7.6 inches (5.68 meters).
"That's a new record!" said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in a statement. They also posted a picture in their social media accounts showing the pair of hunters and their large catch sprawled across a road.
"The removal of this female snake is a triumph for our native wildlife and habitats," the agency said in the statement. It added that the catch was a "great example of the partnership" between their programs that aim to remove the invasive species of snake.
In an email sent to local news outlet NBC 6 South Florida, Water Management District Governing Board Member Ron Bergeron lauded the record-breaking catch as evidence of the local government's efforts to "get harmful pythons out of the precious Everglades ecosystem." He added that with the help of their partners and the public, they can restore the local ecosystem and fight against the invasive snakes that harm the local wildlife.
NBC 6 also reported that python hunters like Ryan Ausburn and Kevin Pavlidis can earn up to $150 for every snake captured. Local outlets also encouraged the public to support the efforts to combat these nonnative invasive species by reporting to the FWC through its Exotic Species Hotline - by calling 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), reporting online at IveGot1.org, or through the app IVEGOT1.
Burmese Pythons in Florida
Burmese pythons are large nonvenomous snakes that capture prey by constricting them. These are originally native to large parts of Southern and Southeast Asia. Often living near water, such as grasslands, swamps, and river valleys, these pythons are known as good swimmers.
However, by the end of the 20th century, Burmese pythons have been found to have a thriving population in South Florida, officially recognized as a reproducing population of snakes by 2000. The FWC notes that these pythons are generally found "in and around the Everglades ecosystem."
According to an article published by The History Channel, these pythons were first brought to the United States as a part of the exotic pet trade that exploded in the middle of the 1980s. Miami was one of the locations that saw an increased population of these species. Proposing that the tendency of Burmese pythons to grow large, some pet owners released them into the wild.
The article noted that experts most likely established a reproducing population after Hurricane Andrew - one of the largest storms that landed on Florida in August 1992. During the storm, a python breeding facility was destroyed, releasing these snakes into nearby swarms.
Check out more news and information on Florida FWC in Science Times.