Florida recovers heaviest Burmese python

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Florida recovers heaviest Burmese python

A team of biologists recently hauled the heaviest Burmese python ever captured in Florida, officials said. The discovery was part of the state's python removal program.

The female python weighed in at 215 pounds 98 kg, was nearly 18 ft long 5 metres and had 122 developing eggs, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said in a news release.

The team used radio transmitters implanted into male scout snakes to study python movements, breeding behaviors and habitat use, said Ian Bartoszek, wildlife biologist and environmental science project manager for the conservancy's program.

In a similar way, our male scout snakes are attracted to the biggest females around, Bartoszek said.

The team used a scout snake named Dionysus or Dion for short in an area of western Everglades.

We knew he was there for a reason, and the team found him with the largest female we have seen to date. Biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley helped capture the female snake and haul it through the woods to the field truck.

A necropsy also found hoof cores in the snake's digest system, meaning that an adult white-tailed deer was its last meal.

National Geographic documented the discovery, highlighting the continued impact of the invasive pythons, which are known for rapid reproduction and depletion of surrounding native wildlife.

Bartoszek said that the removal of female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the breeding cycle.

He said that this is the wildlife issue of our time for southern Florida.

Since the start of the Conservancy's python program in 2013 they have removed more than 1,000 pythons from approximately 100 sq miles 258 km in south-west Florida.

Over that stretch, necropsies have found dozens of white-tailed deer inside Burmese pythons. Data scientists at the University of Florida have documented 24 species of mammals, 47 species of birds and 2 reptile species from pythons stomachs.

Prior to the recent discovery, the largest female removed through the conservancy's program weighed 185 pounds 84 kg and was the heaviest python captured at the time in Florida, officials said.

The state's python removal program runs for two weeks in August. Participants compete for prizes, including $2,500, for capturing the most pythons.

More than 600 people from 25 states participated in the challenge last year.