NAPLES, Fla. (AP) – A team of biologists recently hauled in the heaviest Burmese python ever captured in Florida, officials said.
The female python weighed 215 pounds (98 kilograms), was nearly 18 feet long (5 meters), and had 122 developing eggs, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said in a press release.
The team used radio transmitters transplanted into male “scout” snakes to study python movements, breeding behavior and habitat use, said Ian Bartoszek, a wildlife biologist and environmental science project manager for the wildlife sanctuary program.
“How do you find the needle in the haystack? You could use a magnet, and in a similar way our male Boy Scout snakes are attracted to the biggest females out there,” Bartoszek said.
The team used a scout snake called Dionysus — or Dion for short — in an area of the western Everglades.
“We knew he was there for a reason, and the team found him with the biggest woman we’ve seen yet.”
Biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley helped capture the female snake and drag it through the woods to the field truck.
A necropsy also found hoof cores in the snake’s digestive system, meaning an adult white-tailed deer was its last meal.
National Geographic documented the discovery, highlighting the ongoing impact of the invasive pythons, which are known for rapid reproduction and depletion of the surrounding native wildlife.
Bartoszek said removing female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the breeding cycle.
“This is the wildlife issue of our time for South Florida,” he said.
Since the sanctuary’s python program began in 2013, they have removed more than 1,000 pythons from approximately 100 square miles (25,900 acres) of southwest Florida.
On that piece, autopsies have found dozens of white-tailed deer in Burmese pythons. University of Florida data researchers have documented 24 mammalian, 47 bird and 2 reptile species from the stomachs of pythons.
Prior to the recent discovery, the largest female removed from the conservation program by the program weighed 185 pounds (84 kilograms) and was the heaviest python captured in Florida at the time, officials said.
The States python uninstaller runs for two weeks in August. Contestants compete for prizes, including $2,500 for catching the most pythons.
Last year’s challenge involved more than 600 people from 25 states.