Naples biologist Ian Bartoszek said it took a lot of sweat and a little blood to catch the two heaviest Burmese pythons on record in Florida.
On June 10, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida published the largest study of invasive Burmese pythons. The study, which began in 2013, focused on tagging pythons with radio trackers to help biologists understand the animal’s home range size, movement rates and habitat selections.
During the study, two of the heaviest pythons on state record were discovered. A record 185-pound female was captured, along with a 140-pound male, according to Bartoszek. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will still need to verify the record, but the previous largest female python captured in Florida weighted in at 164.5-pounds.
Bartoszek and his team brought back over 1,000 snakes to the Conservancy’s snake lab in Naples. Over half were females, which can lay an average of 42 eggs per breeding cycle.
“This is a heavy-lifting assignment and we’ve been hot on the trail of these invasive apex predators for the past eight years,” Bartoszek said on the Conservancy Southwest Florida website.
The study concluded that continued tracking of pythons across south Florida during the breeding season may help loosen the species’ chokehold.
Past studies have found Burmese pythons avoid urbanization. This most recent study added that within urban areas, the pythons crowd around river banks adjacent to canals and large-scale agricultural operations. The study also found that the snakes inhabit elevated areas.
With the breeding season and habitats in mind, the study speculated detection of the snakes and removal rates of reproductive female pythons may increase.
Florida’s Burmese python problem is believed to stem from people releasing them as unwanted pets, which has resulted in decreased mammal populations and increased competition with endangered Florida panthers for food.
This story originally appeared at Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.