It has been known for a while that pythons are invading the Everglades and feasting on all manner of cherished species in Everglades National Park. Now scientists at the University of Florida have nabbed the longest one found yet: a 17-foot-long female carrying a record 87 eggs.
The python is 17.5 feet long and weighed 164.5 pounds, the university said in a statement. After being captured in March, tagged, and let loose to spy on its brethren, the snake was picked up again in April and later euthanized, then dissected in a necropsy earlier this month. That’s when they found the eggs.
“This thing is monstrous, it’s about a foot wide,” said Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko in the 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.”
Authorities have known for quite some time that Burmese pythons are gobbling up the fragile ecosystem’s animals—ranging from raccoons and birds to deer, bobcats, alligators and other hapless creatures. But this catch in particular demonstrates the snakes’ chokehold on their surroundings.
A study published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the journal PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in January documented the toll on local wildlife. Without natural predators, this invasive species may be set to decimate its adopted environment, biologists say.
“I think one of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability,” Park biologist Skip Snow said in the statement. “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.”
The previous record, the university said, was 16.8 feet long with 85 eggs.
USGS researchers filmed the initial capture, below, and below that is footage of National Parks Service employees doing the same a few years ago. The USGS has a site devoted to research into this animal's presence in the Florida Everglades.