Florida conservationists capture 215 pound python, the heaviest found in the state
The huge reptile was captured by the conservancy as part of its invasive Burmese python research program.
Biologists found the female by tracking a male “scout snake” named Dionysus with a radio transmitter. Males are attracted to the largest females, according to the conservancy. So by following a breeding male like Dionysus, they can find and remove large breeding females and their eggs.
Ian Bartoszek, a project manager for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley caught and euthanized the huge female python before hauling her back to their field truck last December.
Bartoszek says that they didn’t realize just how large the snake was until they weighed her at the lab. There was “collective disbelief” when they realized she was a whopping 215 pounds, breaking the previous record of 185 pounds for a Burmese python captured in Florida.
But it wasn’t until several months later, on April 28, that biologists had a chance to perform a necropsy on the snake. They discovered she broke another record: she had the largest number of eggs ever found, with 122 developing eggs in her abdomen.
Burmese pythons are indigenous to southeast Asia, where they are considered vulnerable to extinction due to overhunting.
There is “no other Everglades in the world,” said Bartoszek. “It’s a unique bioregion, it’s a gem” — which is jeopardized by the invasive pythons.
The python “is a generalist predator,” said Bartoszek. “It doesn’t discriminate.”
Bartoszek says that while for the moment “eradication seems off the table,” his three-person team is working to reduce and control the Burmese python population by removing breeding females. Over the past 11 years, they’ve removed over 1,000 pythons weighing a total of 26,000 pounds from a small portion of the Everglades totaling around 100 square miles.
Dionysus, the scout snake that led the scientists to the record-breaking female, is the season’s “MVP — most valued python,” said Bartoszek. He led the team to an additional four female Burmese pythons that were euthanized and removed.
“We’re not here for accolades,” he said. “We’re here to raise awareness on this issue.”
He added that the scientists have “tremendous respect for this animal. They’re a pretty remarkable species.”
“We’re on the science side, and in a way for conservation of our native fauna,” Bartoszek said.
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