Snake hunters catch ‘monster’ python in Florida

An invasive 198-pound Burmese python was captured on Friday, but why are they a nuisance to the surrounding wildlife?

Amelia Neath
Wednesday 08 November 2023 17:18 GMT
Snake Hunters Catch 17-foot, 198-pound Python In Florida

A giant 198-pound python was caught in Florida, making it the second-largest snake ever to be captured in the state.

It took five men to wrangle the 17-foot female Burmese python from a swamp in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Friday night.

An even larger snake, weighing in at 215 pounds, was captured by the  Conservancy of Southwest Florida in 2021, CBS reported.

Mike Elfenbein, 45, a conservationist, along with his son Cole, 17, and three other men, who were experienced hunters, spotted the gigantic female snake crossing the road while they were in the area.

"It was more than a snake; it was a monster," Mr Elfenbein told the outlet.

The men were not together as a group, but Mr Elfenbein and the three hunters – Trey Barber, Carter Gavlock and Holden Hunter – immediately banded together to stop the snake.

"We were strangers," Mr Elfenbein told CBS. "But the five of us knew we had to capture this thing."

“I grabbed her by the head, which is the equivalent of the size of a football and stretched her in one direction, my son stretched her in the other, and the other three guys jumped on top of her,” he told Local10.

Mr Elfenbein told CBS that the snake was not going down without a fight, saying they were wrestling their “formidable opponent” for over 45 minutes before getting a hold of it.

The snake weighed in at 198 pounds and measured 17 feet long
The snake weighed in at 198 pounds and measured 17 feet long (Mike Elfenbein/Facebook)

The snake tried to lift her body off the ground to try and “constrict” the men.

Mr Elfenbein, the executive director of the Cypress chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, a conservation organisation, said there was no way the giant python would have been captured without the five men.

“We were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time,” he said to Local10.

Amy Siewe, an invasive python hunter dubbed the ‘python huntress’, was called by Mr Elfenbein to the scene to euthanise the monstrous snake.

Ms Siewe, who has captured 530 pythons since becoming a professional snake hunter in 2019, used the American Veterinary Association-approved method of using a captive bolt gun to kill the python.

Hunters and conservations like Ms Siewe and Mr Elfenbein say they have a legitimate reason to eradicate Burmese pythons from their natural areas, especially ones that weigh 198 pounds.

Father and son Mike and Cole pose for a pic with the giant python they just wrangled
Father and son Mike and Cole pose for a pic with the giant python they just wrangled (Mike Elfenbein/Facebook)

These particular pythons, which are one of the largest snake species in the world, were introduced to the US, likely as pets brought from Southeast Asia that escaped into the wild in the 1970s, according to the Nature Conservancy.

After years of breeding, these pythons, which are not native to Florida’s natural habitat, have become invasive and threaten the wildlife in the Everglades.

Mr Elfenbein said that when the female’s stomach was opened, they found remains of a deer, including hooves and bones.

“It likely consumed a lot of our deer and rabbit and all the other little furry critters that we love to see here in Florida,” he told Local10.

Ms Siewe reiterated that a capture of this size will hopefully be one step towards rebuilding the native mammal populations.

“She killed so many of our animals.  Never again,” she said on her Facebook.

The giant python’s death and size have been observed and recorded by FWC; the skull has been kept by one of the hunters, and the rest of the body will be preserved, the outlets reported.

According to The National Park Service, Burmese pythons have dramatically impacted the wildlife at the Everglades National Park, with the number of mammals declining “very sharply” over the years.

The service continues to run its program, eradicating these pythons from the park.

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