Officials in South Florida captured a record-breaking 18-foot, 4-inch Burmese python in Big Cypress National Preserve last month as part of an ongoing effort to remove the invasive species from the Sunshine State.
Cynthia Downer and Jonathan Lopez of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Python Action Team (FWC PAT) captured the 98-pound, 10-ounce female snake on Sept. 22, the commission announced Friday.
It is the largest snake ever caught by the team and the largest captured at the Big Cypress preserve. It's also the second-largest python ever caught in the wild in Florida and just four inches short of being the longest wild python ever captured in Florida.
According to Fox 13 Tampa, the largest python ever caught in Florida was captured in 2013. That female python was over 18 feet, 8 inches long and weighed 128 pounds.
"Capturing large adult females is critical because it prevents them from potentially adding an average of 30 to 60 hatchlings to the population each time they breed," the FWC said in a statement.
"These snakes, coupled with the thousands removed by our partners at the National Park Service and the South Florida Water Management District, make a significant impact to protect Florida’s native wildlife," FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said in a statement. "With leadership from Gov. Ron DeSantis, we are committed to working with our partners [...] to accomplish our goal of removing pythons from our beautiful state."
Environmentalists say Burmese pythons are responsible for killing deer, alligators and other important wildlife in the state. Their presence in the wild is the result of the snakes escaping or being released from homes where people keep them as pets.
The FWC also announced Friday that its Python Action Team had captured its 900th Burmese python on Sept. 24 in the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in Miami-Dade County. That snake weighed just a quarter of a pound and measured just over two feet long.
The public can help by reporting snake sightings online, using the app "IVEGOT1" or by calling the state's Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), the commission added.