Record-setting python more than 17 feet long caught in Florida Everglades

A Burmese python - more than 17 feet long and weighing more than 130 pounds, with more rows of sharp teeth than you ever cared to imagine - has been captured and killed in the Florida Everglades.

Officials said the hunter, Jason Leon, set a record late last week for bringing in the longest snake recorded in the South Florida Water Management District's Python Elimination Program, which was designed earlier this year to help trim the reptile's troubling population.

District spokesman Randy Smith said the non-venomous constrictor was captured in the Everglades, about 40 miles from Miami, and brought to the district's Homestead Field Station to be measured.

The hunter also claimed a bounty - $50 for the first four feet and an extra $25 for each foot more, according to the district spokesman.

Leon, the hunter, said when he saw the python, it was completely submerged in water.

In a video from the South Florida Water Management District, he said he "got her out, shot her right in the head while I was holding her."

"I grabbed her first by the center of the body. She had her head over wrapped around by the tree and I was able to go ahead and grab her farther up by the head. When I had her farther up on the head, I came and took a shot on her right here," the hunter said in the video, wrapping his hands around the dead python's head to show where he shot it. "And she got popped again here on the neck later."

When asked about the hunt, Leon told NBC Miami that no one should attempt to do it alone.

"That snake could pretty much kill any full-grown man," he told the news station about the serpent. "If that snake was alive right now, it would probably take like three of us to be able to control that snake."

The Burmese python, which is considered one of the largest snakes in the world, is native to Asia and an invasive species to the Everglades, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The South Florida Water Management District says on its website that the Burmese python was likely introduced to the Florida Everglades "by accidental or intentional releases by pet owners."

It states:

"Since making their way into the bountiful grounds of the Everglades, these giant constrictors have thrived, assuming a top position on the food web.

"While researchers have been hard pressed to provide specific population numbers in the Everglades, a rapid number of increased sightings from 2005 to 2010 is concerning. The species was once relegated to only Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade County, but recent tracking shows pythons are moving westward into locations such as Big Cypress National Preserve and northward into Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"Burmese pythons possess an insatiable appetite. They cannot only kill Florida native prey species and pose a threat to humans, but also rob panthers, birds of prey, alligators and bobcats of a primary food source."

"We saw that there was a very serious problem," Smith, the spokesman, said.

Smith added the python program has been the "most successful endeavor in trying to make a dent in the population," eliminating at least 743 snakes (some of them pregnant females) since the program's inception in March.

To participate, hunters must be at least 18 years old and without a felony conviction or wildlife-related offense within the past five years, according to the site.

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