“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”
Well, Harrison Ford, we’re asking the same question. Why does it ever have to be these slithering, limbless creatures that send chills down our spines and make even the toughest of men shriek in fear?
For centuries, the snake has been seen as the symbol of evil, yet for some men in the southeasternmost part of the United States, snakes are more of a hobby.
In Fort Myers, Florida, to be exact, a group of hunters successfully captured what experts are now saying is the largest Burmese python ever recorded.
This colossal snake, which measured out to be an impressive 19 feet in length, was caught in eastern Collier County’s Big Cypress National Preserve.
Fun fact — Big Cypress National Preserve was the very first national preserve in the U.S. National Park System, covering around 720,000 acres and holding a mix of cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, and prairies. To this day, it serves as a vital link between the Everglades ecosystem and the adjacent coastal areas.
The group of hunters, all of which were led by Jake Waleri, a Naples resident and Ohio State University student, were elated by what they found that day. Jake himself described the snake find as a “dream come true.”
Waleri is no stranger to snakes. In fact, he has been an experienced snake hunter since 2020. Even with all of his catches, he spoke about how incredibly challenging and chaotic the process of subduing the massive python was.
After a long and difficult struggle, he managed to jump on the snake and hold onto its tail while a friend tried to pin down its head using a net. Despite being an expert snake wrangler, Waleri admitted that this particular snake had instilled a new level of fear in him.
He had never dealt with a python of this size, and just the thought of doing so made the capture all the more exhilarating.
The invasion of Burmese pythons in Florida has been a significant ecological and environmental issue that has unfolded for several decades. These reptiles, which are non-native snake species native to Southeast Asia, cause significant damage to the local wildlife. Experts believe that the introduction of these pythons to the Florida ecosystem started in the late 20th century, likely due to the release of pet snakes into the wild or their escape from captivity during hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Over the years, scientists have observed a decline in fur-bearing animals in the historic Everglades due to the presence of these invasive predators.
Waleri expressed his own personal concern over the increasing size of the pythons he captures, emphasizing how urgent it is to remove large females from the ecosystem before they lay eggs.
This particular python they caught likely laid over 100 eggs.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is currently examining the python to collect diet data, genetic information, and more.