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An 18-foot, 215-pound Burmese python has been captured in Florida, and biologists say it sets a state record for the weight of one of the country’s most troublesome invasive species, according to The Conservancy of Southwest Florida. .
The nonprofit Conservation announced the find on Thursday, June 22, and reports that the female was also carrying a record number of eggs: 122 were developing in her abdomen.
The average is 50 to 100 eggs per clutch, according to data from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
When it comes to size comparisons, Burmese pythons captured in Florida average between 6 and 9 feet, although a python around 18 feet is considered the state record for length. A weight for this snake has not been provided by the state.
Conservation officials say the huge 215-pound snake was discovered using a program that captures male pythons, equips them with radio transmitters and tracks their movements. These “scout snakes” then lead the searchers to the “large breeding females” and their nests.
“How do you find the needle in the haystack? You can use a magnet, and similarly our male scout snakes are attracted to the largest females in the world,” wildlife conservation biologist Ian Bartoszek said in a press release.
“This season, we tracked a male scout snake named Dionysus, or Dion, to an area in the western Everglades that he frequented for several weeks. We knew he was there for a reason, and the team found it with the largest female we’ve seen to date.
The sheer number of eggs found in the female “sets a new limit for the largest number of eggs a female python can potentially produce,” the conservancy reports.
A necropsy on the female snake also revealed her last meal was an adult white-tailed deer, conservation officials said. Pythons are known to consume “24 species of mammals, 47 species of birds, and 2 species of reptiles,” according to data from the University of Florida.
“The removal of female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the reproductive cycle of these apex predators that wreak havoc on the Everglades ecosystem and take food sources from other native species,” Bartoszek said. “It’s the wildlife problem of our time for South Florida.”
The python conservation program dates back to 2013 and is credited with removing 1,000 pythons from 100 square miles in southwest Florida. Its broader mission focuses on environmental issues in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.
National Park Service officials report that the first removal of a python from the Everglades occurred in 1979. The snakes are believed to have been introduced through the exotic pet trade, either when the animals escaped, or have been released by the owners.
As the environmental threat grew, Florida implemented a program allowing pythons to be “humanely killed,” says FWC.
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