It’s official. An invasive Burmese python captured in the Everglades over the weekend has broken the state record measuring 18.9 feet long. The previous record was 18.8 feet long.
Ryan Ausburn, a contracted python hunter with the South Florida Water Management District, and Kevin “Snakeaholic” Pavlidis, a contracted python hunter with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, captured the monster-sized python Oct. 2 along the L-28 Tieback Canal about 35 miles west of Miami.
On social media, Pavlidis wrote, “On Friday night, we pulled this BEAST of a snake out of waist-deep water in the middle of the night, deep in the Everglades. I have never seen a snake anywhere near this size and my hands were shaking as I approached her. Every python we catch can be potentially dangerous, but one this size? Lethal. One mistake, and I am for sure going to the hospital. But more importantly, this is a once in a lifetime snake. I could go out every single night for the rest of my life and never see one this big again.”
Ausburn described the capture as a real “BATTLE”, saying, “I am just incredibly grateful for this opportunity and an experience I will never forget. Realize what you have when you have it and cherish the experience in the moment. Be grateful, be respected, and be thankful.”
Ausburn said he knew as soon as he saw the snake “she had some size but it wasn’t until we walked to the water’s edge did I realize how big.”
Usually, snake hunters grab the pythons by the head but Ausburn had to grab her by the rear and started pulling but “she immediately turned back and anchored herself around a tree. It took every ounce of strength to keep her from slipping away.”
More than 5,000 Burmese pythons have been captured and removed from the Florida Everglades since the state started paying hunters to track them down in 2017. The python hunter program is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Burmese pythons were first discovered in the Everglades nearly two decades ago.
It’s believed they became established in Florida as a result of escaped or released pets and they are causing serious harm to the fragile Everglades ecosystem by eating native wildlife such as possum, rabbits, deer, bobcats, and other indigenous wildlife.
It is illegal to release nonnative species into the wild.
They’ve been successful at reproducing in the swampy Everglades because they have no predators. Females can lay up to 100 eggs.
That’s why the state started the bounty program, in which registered hunters earn a minimum wage rate for up to 10 hours of work a day, plus a bonus for their catch: $50 for each python measuring up to four feet plus $25 more for each foot measured above four feet. Hunters who catch a nesting female python earn an additional $200.
Scientists estimate there are between 100,000 and 300,000 pythons in the Everglades.
To learn more about the FWC’s Python Action Team and the SFWMD’s Python Elimination Program, visit MyFWC.com/Python and SFWMD.gov/Python.