A group of Florida men went out hunting for invasive pythons in the Big Cypress National Preserve and wound up capturing a massive snake almost fit for the record books, video shows.
Holden Hunter, Trey Barber and Carter Gavlock encountered the 17-foot, 2-inch predator slithering across a sandy trail on Friday.
They were driving back from snook and tarpon fishing when they saw the massive creature in their headlights, Hunter told Fox News Digital.
They hopped out of their vehicle to try catching it when two others arrived separately – Mike Elfenbein, a local conservationist, and his son Cole.
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All five teamed up to wrangle the massive snake and hold it until a game warden arrived with a bolt gun to euthanize it at the scene. They later weighed it at just shy of 198 pounds.
The group turned in the giant catch to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, state wildlife officials told Fox News Digital.
“(They) confirmed the official weight of the female python at 197.9 lb, making it the second-heaviest Burmese python removed from Florida on record,” Fish and Wildlife Commission spokeswoman Lisa Thompson said in a statement.
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Gavlock will mount the skull, and Hunter and Barber plan to have the skin preserved at the tackle shop where they both work.
“We do love these animals – they’re a fantastic snake, you know, in captivity and done properly, they can be a super docile animal,” Gavlock told Fox News Digital. “They’re just not supposed to be wild in the Everglades. They’re taking out a gross amount of animals out here that are native to the Glades.”
The threat is serious, not just to the small game pythons prey on, but to the natural predators in the region, some already endangered or threatened, whose food supply they siphon off, Barber added, like Florida’s iconic panthers, which according to the Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) number less than 250 in the wild.
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“There’s going to be no small game…no rabbit population, no mice population,” he said. “Then you start taking away from the predators above them, the bobcats, and then they’re getting picked off.”
Elfenbein, who previously caught a 10-foot snake, told FOX 35 Orlando that even with all five guys on top of the python, she was able to lift herself off the ground and try and escape.
“We all came across this giant snake in the road at the exact same time, and it was a good thing we did because it literally took all five of us to get her under control,” he said.
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The massive Burmese pythons are considered a threat to native wildlife, and Florida’s FWC allows them to be humanely killed year round without a permit or hunting license. They are such a problem that they are also prohibited as pets in the Sunshine State.
Their average length is usually between 6 and 9 feet. Florida’s longest Burmese python was captured last year, also at Big Cypress, and measured at more than 19 feet long, but only 125 pounds.
They are primarily located in and around the Everglades and have established populations from Lake Okeechobee to Key Largo and from western Broward County to Collier County; however, they have been spotted outside those areas, according to authorities.
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Anyone who spots a Burmese python is asked to note the location and report it to FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1.