Officials at the Florida Museum of Natural History say they have recovered from the Everglades National Park a female Burmese python measuring 17 feet and 7 inches. The reptilian monster was found carrying 87 eggs in its body.
According to a University of Florida News press release, scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History examined the internal anatomy of the 164.5-pound snake Friday. The animal was brought to the Museum from Everglades National Park as part of a long-term project with the U.S. Department of the Interior to investigate methods for controlling Florida's invasive Burmese python population.
A non-native animal species is said to be invasive if its population has a negative effect on native species or habitat and causes economic damage or threatens human health and safety.
According to the Daily Mail, researchers from the US Geological Survey first caught the python in the Everglades National Park in March. It was fitted with a transmitter and released to the wild. The researchers used the transmitter to track the python's movement to learn more about the local population of pythons.
Researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus prepare to examine the internal anatomy of a 17-foot-7-inch Burmese python, the largest found in Florida to date, on Aug. 10, 2012.
After the python was recaptured, it was taken to the Museum of National History where examiners found 87 eggs. University of Florida News reports that the Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko, said the snake was in excellent health and that its stomach also contained feathers that museum ornithologists will identify.
The Burmese python is the largest ever recovered from the Everglades National Park. According to Krysko, the pythons are a threat to local wildlife. Wildlife officials say the local population of rabbits and foxes is dwindling and sightings of raccoons and opossums have diminished by more than 90 percent in recent times.
Burmese pythons are known to prey on native birds, deer, bobcats, alligators and other large animals, the University of Florida press release reports.
Burmese pythons are a threat to humans. The python kills by grasping with its teeth and then wrapping itself around the victim and causing suffocation by muscular constriction of its body around the victim. The python than swallows the prey whole. A big python may attack and kill a child or adult.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus examine the internal anatomy of the largest Burmese python found in Florida to date.
University of Florida News reports Krysko remarked: "This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide. It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
Burmese Pythons are native to southern Asia. They were brought to the US three decades ago by operators of the exotic pet industry. According to researchers, it is likely that the Burmese python population ranges from thousands to hundreds of thousands. Researchers say the wild population of Burmese pythons in Florida arose when pet owners who no longer wanted to keep their pythons released them into the wild.
Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko displays eggs found in the largest Burmese python from Florida to date.
University of Florida News reports that Florida has the world’s worst invasive reptile and amphibian problem. According to Krysko, 137 non-native species were introduced to Florida between 1863 and 2010. Krysko's study confirmed that the pet trade was the leading cause of the species’ introduction and that the Burmese python is one of 56 non-native species introduced to the state.
CBS News reports that authorities have been trying to control the Burmese python population in Florida by banning their importation and allowing people to hunt them. The efforts, however, have been largely unsuccessful. Krysko said: "They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior. Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python. We've found 14 in a single day."
According to the University of Florida News, Krysko said: “A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants. 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. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species.”
The previous state record for a Burmese python was 16.8 feet and 85 eggs