As concern about giant snakes slithering around South Florida reaches a scaly crescendo with snake hunters diving into the swamps of the Everglades looking for Burmese pythons, a humongous one was captured and killed Thursday in Okeechobee County.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers said the 17-foot-2-inch python was caught Thursday afternoon near the Okeechobee Veterinary Hospital. The reptile weighed 207 pounds and measured 26 inches in diameter.
The snake was scanned and veterinarians didn't find any microchips that would have led to a previous owner. The stomach contents were examined, but nothing identifiable was found, officials said.
"The capture of this large python shows us how well these snakes can thrive in the wild and create a dangerous situation after illegal release or escape," said commission chairman Rodney Barreto.
The commission currently has python hunts conducted by a handful of herpetologists who go into the Everglades hunting the creatures on a regular basis. So far, four snakes have been captured in the hunts. Scientists estimate that there are more than 140,000 such snakes thriving in the big swamp.
Often they begin as pets and then are set free when they become too large to manage.
"We will continue to push for additional measures to control the spread of Burmese pythons in the Everglades where they are reproducing in large numbers," Barreto said.
A Burmese python, kept as a pet in a Sumter County home, escaped its cage a few weeks ago and suffocated a 2-year-old girl and a 14-foot python was pulled out of a drainage culvert in Bradenton just last week.