A monstrous 17 feet and 7 inches long Burmese python with 87 eggs has been caught in Florida, the largest of its kind ever found in the state.
Scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus examined the 164.5-pound (74.5 kilogram) snake Friday as part of a long-term government research project into managing the invasive effect of Burmese pythons in Florida.
"This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," said Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
The giant reptile was discovered in the Everglades National Park and had been stored since May in a freezer at the Florida Museum. Following scientific investigation, the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then will be returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park, said a statement of the University of Florida.
First found in the Everglades in 1979, the Burmese pythons are natives to Southeast Asia. These massive constrictor snakes are known to prey on native birds, deer, bobcats, alligators and other large animals, and are considered as one of the deadliest predators in South Florida.
"A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants," Krysko said. "By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species."
Due to rapid growth in population, the government recently made laws prohibiting people from owning Burmese pythons as pets or transporting the snakes across state lines without a federal permit. Florida residents were even allowed to hunt pythons in certain wildlife management areas during established seasons with a hunting license and required permits.
"They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior," Krysko said. "Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python. We've found 14 in a single day."
"By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future," Krysko added.
Skip Snow, a park wildlife biologist, said that the research of the snake's biology was vital for understanding how to limit the future spread of invasive species.
"I think one of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability," Snow said. "There are not many records of how many eggs a large female snake carries in the wild. This shows they're a really reproductive animal, which aids in their invasiveness."
According to researchers, previous records for Burmese pythons captured in the wild were 16.8 feet long and 85 eggs.