MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – What would you do if you came across the longest Burmese python ever recorded in the state of Florida? A Miami man had to answer that question recently and he decided to catch and kill it.
Turns out, it was the longest Burmese python ever captured in Florida; it measured 18 feet, 8 inches. The python was a 128-pound female that was not carrying eggs, according to University of Florida scientists who examined the snake. The previous record length for a Burmese python captured in the wild in Florida was 17 feet, 7 inches.
On May 11th, Jason Leon was riding late at night in a rural area of southeast Miami-Dade County when he and his passenger spotted the python. About 3 feet of the snake was sticking out of the roadside brush. Leon stopped his car, grabbed the snake behind its head and started dragging it out of the brush. When the snake began to wrap itself around his leg, he called for assistance from others and then used a knife to kill the snake. Leon once owned Burmese pythons as pets and has experience handling this non-venomous constrictor species.
“Jason Leon’s nighttime sighting and capture of a Burmese python of more than 18 feet in length is a notable accomplishment that set a Florida record. The FWC is grateful to him both for safely removing such a large Burmese python and for reporting its capture,” said Kristen Sommers, Exotic Species Coordination Section Leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Leon reported his python capture to the FWC’s South Region office, which connected him with 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4861), the FWC’s hotline for reporting exotic species.
Cheryl Millett of The Nature Conservancy’s Python Patrol Program helped coordinate the response, and Jeff Fobb of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Program arranged to pick up the snake from Leon.
Finally, the python was turned over to the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, where UF staff experienced in working with Burmese pythons performed the necropsy.
“With the help of people like Mr. Leon and our ongoing partnerships with other agencies, the FWC is advancing what we know about Burmese pythons in Florida,” Sommers said. “This event highlights how the Exotic Species hotline allows the public to help us obtain more information about Burmese pythons, so we can improve management of this invasive species. It also reflects the cooperative efforts of the FWC and its partners to address python sightings by the public.”
The public is asked to report sightings of exotic species to IveGot1.org or 888-IveGot1. There is also a free smartphone app: IVEGOT1.
Researchers say Burmese pythons are eating their way through the Everglades, decimating populations of native mammals. The snakes can grow more than 20 feet in length, and they have no predators, other than the humans desperately trying to control their population.