A monstrous Burmese python measuring 17 feet, 7 inches and carrying a record-breaking 87 eggs has been captured in Florida.
Weighing in at a colossal 164.5 pounds, the giant female is the largest snake of its kind found in the state and serves as further evidence of how the foreign predator is threatening local wildlife, say researchers.
‘This thing is monstrous, it’s about a foot wide,’ said Kenneth Krysko, from the Florida Museum of Natural History. ‘It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there’s nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble.’
The massive constrictor snake was first caught by researchers in the Everglades National Park in March. After being fitted with radio transmitters, it was returned to the wild as what scientists call a ‘Judas snake.
Scientists tracked the snake’s movements to learn about how the species are invading the area – using the bugged reptile to locate other snakes as they congregated for mating.
Burmese pythons, native to southern Asia, arrived in the U.S. three decades ago as part of the exotic pet industry. Although the species are not poisonous they are powerful enough to kill humans by suffocating them.
The researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey recaptured the predator in April and it was euthanized using isoflurane gas.
The snake was taken to the Museum of National History for examination where a staggering 87 eggs and feathers were found in its stomach. The feathers will now be identified by the museum’s ornithologists.
Researchers believe that the Burmese python population ranges from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands.
It is believed that the increasing population of Burmese pythons found in southern Florida is partly due to people no longer wanting them as pets and releasing them into the wild.
Burmese pythons are carnivores, primarily surviving on small mammals and birds. Rabbits and foxes in the Everglades have reportedly disappeared and the sightings of raccoons and opossums have diminished by more than 90 per cent, according to researchers.
A Burmese python kills by constriction, grasping victims with their teeth and then coiling their bodies around them, squeezing until the prey suffocates. Ligaments in their jaws allow them to swallow their prey whole.
Although they are nervous of humans, the snakes can kill children and adults using this constriction method.
‘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 in the future,’ Krysko said.
He said that 25 years ago it would be a challenge to capture a Burmese python in the Everglades but now researchers can find up to 14 of them in just one day.
Previous state records for Burmese pythons found in the wild were 16.8 feet and 85 eggs, according to researchers.