ORLANDO, Fla. — One of the latest pythons to be caught in the Everglades is a record-breaker.
A pair of trappers caught the 18-foot, 9-inch invasive Burmese python on a hunt working for the South Florida Water Management District.
Ryan Ausburn and Kevin Pavlidis caught the 104-pound female on Oct. 2 as part of the district’s Python Elimination Program, which has seen the capture of nearly 4,000 of the snakes since 2017. The snake was found about 35 miles west of Miami, and its length surpasses the previous record of 18 feet, 8 inches, from 2013.
Officials have said capturing females is paramount to avoid them adding another 30 to 60 hatchlings every breeding period.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission also runs a program called the Python Action Team, which has caught more than 1,000 more, while even more are handled by a program run by the National Park Service. All three have a hand in managing state and federal lands in South Florida, where the python problem is the worst.
“The removal of this female snake is a triumph for our native wildlife and habitats and a great example of the partnership between our two programs working toward our goal of removing nonnative pythons,” reads a post on FWC’s Facebook page showing an image of Ausburn, Pavlidis and their capture as part of the program that “incentivizes a limited number of public-spirited individuals to humanely euthanize these destructive snakes, which have become an apex predator in the Everglades.”
The presence of the pythons has been growing since the early 2000s in the Everglades and expanding across south Florida. FWC said that the population grew as the result of escaped or released pets.
The United States Geological Survey estimates the population still numbers in the tens of thousands.
Federal and state efforts had removed more than 2,000 of the exotic invasive species from 2002-2017, but efforts have been stepped up in the last four years.
“Today’s record-breaking capture shows that our increased efforts are working to get harmful pythons out of the precious Everglades ecosystem,” said Ron Bergeron, board member with the water management district in a press release. “Together with our partners and the public’s help, we can restore the Everglades and combat the harmful pythons that hurt Florida’s native wildlife.”
Anyone who sees the python or other nonnative species can call the state’s Exotic Species Hotline 888-IVEGOT1 (888-483-4681). FWC will send contractors with the Python Action Team or the water management district’s Python Elimination Program to remove it.