Burmese python carrying 87 eggs sets state record at 17 feet, 7 inches

A Burmese python measuring 17 feet, 7 inches has shattered the record for the largest snake found in Florida.

Captured at the northern end of Everglades National Park, the snake — nearly two building stories tall — was nearly a foot longer than the previous state record of 16 feet, 8 inches, the University of Florida announced Monday.

It also was a mom, and a record-setting one at that. It was carrying a record-setting 87 eggs, two more than the previous mark.

And this Burmese python — an aggressive predator native to Southeast Asia and powerful enough to “eat anything it wants” — wasn’t alone in the wild. Earlier this year, the U.S. Geological Survey caught another snake in the same area that measured 16 feet, 6 inches.

“(It has been) a fairly big year for big pythons,” said Kristen Hart, a research ecologist with the survey. “We’re getting our heads around where some of these really big ones may be spending time. It’s not that often that you get really, really big ones. You get a bunch a medium-sized ones.

“The fact there are big ones out there means that we have a lot more work to do. But we are learning a lot from them as well.”

Pythons have become a huge issue for state wildlife managers. They’re aggressive enough to consume most other species they come into contact with — even deer and alligators. About 1,800 pythons have been removed from the park and nearby areas since 2002. Exotic snakes found the park have often been released there by pet owners.

“The people who have pets and can’t manage them may think that they’re doing a good thing for their pets by putting them out into the wild, but it’s disastrous for the environment,” Linda Friar, a spokeswoman for the park, said Monday.

Park officials are trying to “develop strategies to get to some sort of manageable level with this species, but we’re not there yet,” Friar said.

The 17-foot-7 python was initially captured March 6 and returned to the wild days later after being fitted with two radio transmitters and other devices to track its movements. The tracking was done as part of the organization’s “Judas” program, used to track where snakes meet to mate.

“We suspected that she might be a breeding female, so we wanted to get her activity pattern,” Hart said.

The snake was recaptured April 19 and euthanized shortly afterward, Hart said. The snake was in excellent health, said Kenneth Krysko, manager for the Florida Museum’s herpetology college. Its stomach contained feathers that will be identified by museum ornithologists.

A snake longer than 17 feet “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.”

While this snake set a Florida record, it likely falls short of the world mark. Greg Longhurst of Loxahatchee Groves, who ran the snake park at Lion Country Safari in the last 1960s and early 1970s and has taught seminars on how to avoid and treat snake bites, was not surprised a python of that size had been discovered.

“In their native habitat, they reach sizes like that,” he said. “That is a record for here in Florida, so far. (But) they have been known to get up to 20 feet or so.”