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NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — A team of biologists recently transported the heaviest Burmese python ever captured in Florida, officials said.
The female python weighed 215 pounds (98 kilograms), was nearly 18 feet (5 meters) tall, and had 122 developing eggs, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said in a news release.
The team used radio transmitters transplanted into male “scout” snakes to study the pythons’ movements, breeding behaviors and habitat use, said Ian Bartoszek, wildlife biologist and project leader in environmental sciences for the conservation program.
“How do you find the needle in the haystack? You can use a magnet, and similarly our male scout snakes are attracted to the biggest females in the world,” Bartoszek said.
The team used a scout snake named 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 tallest woman we’ve seen to date.”
Biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley helped capture the female snake and transport her through the woods to the field truck.
An autopsy 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 continued impact of invasive pythons, known for their rapid reproduction and depletion of surrounding native wildlife.
Bartoszek said culling female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the reproductive cycle.
“This is the wildlife problem of our time for South Florida,” he said.
Since the conservation python program began in 2013, they have removed more than 1,000 pythons from about 100 square miles (25,900 hectares) in southwest Florida.
During this stretch, necropsies found dozens of white-tailed deer inside Burmese pythons. Data researchers from the University of Florida have documented 24 species of mammals, 47 species of birds, and 2 species of reptiles in the stomachs of pythons.
Prior to the recent discovery, the largest female removed as part of the conservation program weighed 185 pounds (84 kilograms) and was the heaviest python captured at the time in Florida, officials said.
The state’s python removal program runs for two weeks in August. Participants compete for prizes, including $2,500 for catching the most pythons.
Last year’s challenge involved more than 600 people from 25 states.
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