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Massive snake found in Florida (photos)

On Aug. 10, 2012, 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. The 17-foot-7-inch snake weighed 164 pounds and carried 87 eggs in its oviducts, a state record. Following scientific investigation, the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park. Pictured are Rebecca Reichart (from left), Leroy Nunez, Nicholas Coutu, Claudia Grant and Kenneth Krysko. (University of Florida photo by Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History)

Researchers in Florida have documented the biggest snake ever found in Florida. But the snake is an invader — it’s not native.

The Burmese python measures 17 feet, 7 inches long and weighs 164.5 pounds, according to the University of Florida. The snake was brought into the Florida Museum from Everglades National Park as part a project to control the population of the invasive species, which is devastating native wildlife in the Everglades.

The biggest snake found in Florida.
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. Pictured are Claudia Grant (from left), Leroy Nunez and Nicholas Coutu. (University of Florida photo by Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History)

Researchers killed the snake and are now analyzing its stomach contents for clues on its diet. Burmese pythons are known to feast on prey on native rodents, fish, birds, and deer as well as larger animals alligators.

“This thing is monstrous, it’s about a foot wide,” said Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko in a statement. “It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there’s nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble.”

“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 Burmese python was introduced to Florida via the pet trade in the 1970s and was first found in the Everglades in 1979. Since then its population has boomed. In the Everglades it has abundant prey and no natural predators.

“They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior,” Krysko said. “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.”

Michael Barron of the National Park Service took this picture of a carcass of an alligator as it protrudes out from the body of a dead Burmese python in Everglades National Park, Florida.

The contents of the just-discovered giant python reflect the challenges controlling its population. A record 87 eggs were discovered in the snake.

“I think one of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability,” said Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist at Everglades National Park. “There are not many records of how many eggs a large female snake carries in the wild. This shows they’re a really reproductive animal, which aids in their invasiveness.”

Snow said understanding the snake’s biology could help experts slow its spread.

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