The biggest Burmese python ever caught in Florida — 17 feet, 7 inches long and 164½ pounds — was found in Everglades National Park, the University of Florida announced Monday.
The snake was pregnant with 87 eggs, also said to be a record. Scientists said the python's stats show just how pervasive the invasive snakes, which are native to Southeast Asia, have become in South Florida.
"It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild," said Kenneth Krysko, a snake expert at the Florida Museum of Natural History, where the euthanized snake was brought. ''There's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
The python had feathers in its stomach that scientists plan to use to identify the types of wildlife it was eating.
"A 17½-foot snake could eat anything it wants," Krysko said.
Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons are believed to be living in the Everglades, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate. While many were apparently released by their owners, others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and have been reproducing ever since.
The snakes kill their prey by coiling around it and suffocating it. They have been known to swallow animals as large as deer and alligators.
Authorities have taken repeated steps to try and reduce the python problem, banning their importation and allowing them to be hunted. But those efforts have done little to reduce the population.
In and around Everglades National Park alone, some 1,825 Burmese pythons were found between 2000 and 2011.
Rob Robins, a biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said the snakes are very hard to catch, and that since they have established themselves in the Everglades, they will be virtually impossible to eradicate.
"I think you're going to see more and more big snakes like this caught," he said.