A huge Burmese python measuring 18 feet 2 inches was found Tuesday in the Florida Everglades. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the massive python fell just 6 inches short of the state record for largest snake found to date.
The pythons, which can reach over 20 feet long in their native Southeast Asia habitat, have become one of the most problematic invaders of Florida's Everglades wetlands, according to the Miami Herald on Feb. 4.
The invading snakes eat indigenous species as well as their food sources, sparking concerns that the predatory snakes may fundamentally change the Everglades entire ecosystem.
Necropsies show that they eat just about everything that lives in the Everglades, from birds to alligators. One 2012 study suggested the boom in pythons has decimated the small mammal population in the park.
Engineers who were conducting routine levee inspections stumbled upon the huge reptile, said South Florida Water Management District spokesman Gabe Margasaka.
The snake was found about five miles north of Tamiami Trail, west of Miami. The cold-blooded pythons like to spend hours at a time atop the levees basking in Florida's warm sunshine.
The Burmese pythons are one of the largest snake species in the world. They established residence in the central and southern wetlands of Florida, when misguided pet owners likely began dumping them there when they could no longer care for them.
The snake found Tuesday was killed and sent to the University of Florida, where it will be studied by scientists trying to fend off the species' invasion, according to the Daily News.
State officials estimate the python population to have grown to as many as 150,000 throughout the Everglades.