A Massive 18-Foot Florida Python Just Became the Largest U.S. Snake Ever Found!

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: September 14, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Burmese pythons are not native to Florida but have established themselves with populations that could number as many as 150,000.
  • An invasive species, the Burmese pythons have nearly eliminated native animals such as cottontail rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and opossums in the areas they inhabit.
  • The largest Burmese python captured in Florida was 18 feet long and weighed 215 pounds.
Wanted Sign for Pythons in Everglades

Florida wildlife officials are actively working to eliminate invasive

Burmese

pythons to save native wildlife.

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Can you imagine a thick, 18-foot-long Burmese python slithering past your golf cart in Florida? It could happen! Burmese pythons are not native to Florida, but they have an established population in the Everglades and continue to expand. There are an estimated 30,000 to as many as 150,000 pythons in Florida. The problem, besides living with enormous snakes, is that they are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

They prey on the local animals and have eliminated nearly all of the cottontail rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and opossums. In an effort to control the population, researchers try to catch and eliminate as many female pythons as they can to prevent them from reproducing. Read on to find out about the massive 18-foot Florida python that just became the largest U.S. snake ever found.

Researchers have been using a system of finding females by using male pythons outfitted with GPS trackers.

What is a Burmese Python?

Burmese Python stretched out on grass.

Burmese pythons are not native to Florida but they have been there since the 70s. They are typically 6-10 feet long but can reach up to 20 feet.

©Yatra/Shutterstock.com

Burmese pythons are large, thick-bodied constrictor snakes. The average size for an adult is 6-10 feet long but some get to be much larger. They have a base color of tan with black outlined splotches all over their bodies. Their heads can be larger than a human hand and you might not be able to fit your hands around the circumference of their bodies.

Burmese pythons are not native to the U.S. they are from southeast Asia. As a constrictor snake, they attack their prey, holding them in their teeth and then wrapping their long muscular body around it, and squeezing until the prey dies. They then swallow the prey whole. Burmese pythons are even capable of eating alligators.

If you are curious about what that looks like here is a video of a Burmese python capturing and eating an alligator!

Who found the 18-Foot Florida Python?

Two researchers and an intern from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida found the 18-foot-long python. Researchers Ian Bartoszek, Ian Easterling, and intern Kyle Findley didn’t just stumble across this large python. They have been using a system of finding females by using male pythons outfitted with GPS trackers.

How do Researchers Find Burmese Pythons Using GPS Trackers?

Researchers are focusing on eliminating more female Burmese pythons because they can have 50-100 babies at a time! So they developed a system of using male Burmese pythons to find females and then they capture the females. By outfitting males with a GPS tracker they can follow his quest to find the females that alert the males by releasing a special pheromone. For this 18-foot-long python, the researchers used an experienced male named Dionysus (Dion) who was probably disappointed with how his romantic evening ended. They brought Dion back to the research facility to use for a future date night.  

How Much did the Python weigh?

The 18-foot-long Burmese python weighed 215 lbs (97 kilograms). That explains why the photo of the capture shows three adults holding the giant snake up. Each carried about 70 pounds!

What is the Problem with Burmese Pythons in Florida?

Burmese Python in a Tree

Burmese pythons are an invasive species that compete for food with other animals and have almost eliminated certain mammal populations in the Everglades.

©Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com

Burmese pythons are an invasive species. They are killing and eating animals that are native and competing for food with other animals including a few endangered ones like the Key Largo woodrat. According to the USGS U.S. Department of the Interior, “In a 2012 study, populations of raccoons had dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.” Because the only predators of the pythons are humans and alligators, their numbers have gone unchecked for years and are difficult to control.

What are Conservationists Doing About the Invasive Burmese Pythons?

Conservationists and researchers are trying multiple strategies to control the Burmese python population in Florida. Besides the male GPS tracking program, other strategies include driving along the roads in the Everglades looking for ones basking in the sun, and allowing people to hunt and kill pythons without a permit. They have also organized a Python Patrol that goes out on regular hunts to locate and eliminate pythons.

What is the Python Patrol?

The Python Patrol is organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is a program that includes training available to anyone who wants to learn how to identify and report sightings of the pythons or learn how to hunt and humanely eliminate the pythons.

Burmese pythons are not venomous and do not attack so they are not particularly dangerous to humans, but there are risks in purposefully going out looking for them. Want more information? Check here for the training schedule. Virtual training is also available.

What is the Florida Python Challenge®?

A clever way to get encourage more volunteer hunters is the Florida Python Challenge®. It is a 10-day contest to see who can catch the most Burmese pythons in Florida. There are prizes for the most caught and the longest. The next competition is coming up so get your training done so you have time to plan! Mark your calendar for Friday, August 5, 2022, to Sunday, August 14, 2022. The first place prize for the most pythons caught is $2,500, the second place is $750, the first place for the longest python is $2,500 and the second place is $750. There is a professional and novice division.

Who Won the Florida Python Challenge® Last Year?

Last year the prize money was significantly higher due to the generous donation of $10,000 by Virtual Business Services. The $10,000 ultimate grand prize went to Charles Danchton for removing 41 pythons, which averages to 4 per day! Juan Gonzalez removed 8 pythons to receive the $2,500 reward. The longest python caught last year was 15 feet 9 inches by Brandon Call and the longest by a professional was 15 feet 5 inches caught by Dusty Crum. Overall there were 600 people that participated in the challenge and all together they rounded up 223 Burmese Pythons…not bad!

What is the Longest Snake in the World on Record?

Biggest Snakes: The Reticulated Python

The longest snakes in the world are reticulated pythons which can get to be more than 20 feet. The longest ever was 32 ft. 9.5 inches long!

©Opayaza12/Shutterstock.com

According to the Guinness World Records, the longest snakes in the world are reticulated pythons. They can get to be longer than 20 feet. Luckily, reticulated pythons do not live in Florida; they are native to southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The official world record for the longest snake in the world goes to a reticulated python from Celebes, Indonesia in 1912. The record-breaker was 32 ft 9.5 in. (10m)!

Other Record-Breaking Snakes

Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) toughest animal for toxicity - most toxic animal on earth

Black mambas are native to

Africa

and are one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

©NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock.com

In keeping with the theme of large, terrifying snakes, you may want to direct your attention to our next article on the largest black mamba ever recorded. Black mambas are one of the most venomous snakes in the world and can grow over 12 feet in length and move at speeds of up to 12.5 mph.

Native to Africa, the black mamba is actually seldom black. Their colors range from yellow-brown, light tan, olive, and gunmetal grey which can reflect a purple hue. Their open mouths, however, reveal a terrifying black cavernous void and an inky flicking black tongue. Black mambas will hiss loudly and spread their necks into a hood before it stands like a cobra to unleash a series of potentially deadly strikes. Whenever this snake hunts – it waits on the venom to paralyze its victim and then swallows the animal whole.

How long is the largest black mamba? It’s well over 14 feet in length! Read the next post to discover more about one of the most feared snakes on the planet and find out just how large this deadly reptile can be!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Irina oxilixo Danilova/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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