On the morning of July 10, a group of Burmese python hunters captured and killed a 19-foot female python in a federally-protected swampland just north of Everglades National Park. According to a press release from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida (CSWF), a conservation organization that recorded the giant snake’s official weight and measurements, it’s the longest python ever documented in south Florida since the invasive snakes were inadvertently introduced roughly four decades ago. The previous record was 18 feet, 10 inches.

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The press release credits 22-year-old Jake Waleri of Naples with finding the massive snake somewhere inside the Big Cypress National Preserve—a 729,000-acre swamp that’s home to a diverse array of native wildlife species, including the endangered Florida panther. “We brought the snake to the Conservancy to be officially measured and documented. We wanted to donate this find to science,” Waleri said. “It’s awesome to be able to make an impact on South Florida’s environment. We love this ecosystem and try to preserve it as much as possible.”

Snake hunters Jake Waleri and Stephen Gauta pose with their record snake.
Snake hunters Jake Waleri and Stephen Gauta pose with their record snake.

CSFW has been dealing with the ecological impacts of Florida’s Burmese python invasion for more than 10 years. During that time, the organization claims to have removed some 30,000 pounds worth of snakes from a 150-square-mile area in southwestern part of the Sunshine State.

Pythons established breeding populations in south Florida sometime in the early 1990s. It’s commonly believed that their invasion of the Everglades was spurred on by the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. That storm destroyed a python breeding facility in Dade County. In the aftermath of the category 5 hurricane, state environmental inspectors told the public that thousands of exotic species had escaped their caging and enclosures as the storm swept through the area, according to a 2018 article in CBS News.

“We had a feeling that these snakes get this big and now we have clear evidence,” said CSFW biologist Ian Easterling, the recent press release about the 19-footer caught in Big Cypress. “Her genetic material may prove valuable for an eventual understanding of the founding population of South Florida. We will be collecting measurements and samples that will be distributed to our research collaborators.” 

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At 125-pounds, Waleri’s Burmese python isn’t the heaviest ever recorded in the reptiles’s adopted south Florida range. That distinction goes to a 215-pound female that was captured in June of 2022. A team of CSFW biologists located that snake by implanting a radio transmitter into the body of a male “scout snake” that led them to the large breeding female.