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Discover the Largest Python Ever Caught in Florida

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: June 10, 2022
Image Credit Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

You’ll probably have a snake encounter at least once if you live in Florida. Florida is home to more than 46 snakes, of which only six are venomous. They can be found anywhere within the state–from dry uplands and fresh wetlands to coastal mangroves and salt marshes.

There are invasive species within Florida as well. Three of these non-native species have already established breeding populations. They play a significant role in the ecosystem. However, one introduced species is probably hurting Florida’s native wildlife in the Everglades.

Let’s find out the largest python ever caught in Florida!

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What is the largest python ever caught in Florida?

Burmese Python stretched out on grass.
In 2020, snake hunters captured an enormous Burmese python in Florida.

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In 2020, snake hunters captured an enormous Burmese python (Python bivittatus) in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWS) said the snake measured 18 feet and 9 inches long – a new record for the Florida state. The previous record was set in 2013 when a Burmese python measuring 18 feet and 8 inches was caught within the state.

In 2012, a Burmese python with 87 eggs measuring 17-feet long was also captured by researchers doing a geological survey in the Everglades. These snakes are known to be among the largest on the planet, having the ability to grow up to a whopping 20 feet long.

What is the size and appearance of a Burmese python?

Burmese Python
The Burmese python is tan or dark-colored with several dark-brown blotches bordered by black towards the back.

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The Burmese python typically grows to 15-20 feet in length. There have been reports of Burmese pythons over 18 feet long and weighing 400 pounds, but finding a Burmese that long or heavy in captivity is extremely rare. Specimens of more than 23 feet long are unconfirmed. 

A lady residing at Serpent Safari had an enormous Burmese python that weighed more than 400 pounds and was 18 feet long. The Burmese python is tan or dark-colored with several dark-brown blotches bordered by black towards the back. This snake mimics the same pattern as that of a giraffe. The immatures measure two feet long at birth.

Where to find Burmese pythons

Burmese pythons are native to Asia and can be found throughout southern and southeast Asia. They have also been seen in the southeastern parts of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, China, Thailand, and the islands of Bali and Java.

Burmese pythons gained a foothold in the United States around 20-40 years ago after exotic pet pythons were released or escaped into the wild. Many Burmese pythons now live in Florida as invasive species. There could be more than 300,000 of them residing in the state.

They prefer inhabiting the grasslands, rocky foothills, jungles, river valleys, woodlands, swamps, and marshes. The Burmese are good swimmers and can stay in water for up to 30 minutes, but they spend most of their time on land.

Burmese pythons are solitary species that can live up to 20 years. They breed early in spring, and sexually mature females can lay up to 100 eggs per clutch in a year. They only come in pairs during the breeding season.

What do Burmese pythons eat?

Burmese Python in a Tree
The diet of Burmese pythons primarily consists of foxes, raccoons, opossums, mountain goats, and numerous species of birds.

Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com

The diet of Burmese pythons primarily consists of foxes, raccoons, opossums, mountain goats, and numerous species of birds. They are predominantly carnivores. They kill prey by constriction, then swallow it whole. The Burmese pythons stay still, waiting for prey to approach, then strike rapidly.

In captivity, Burmese pythons mainly eat commercially available rats. They are also fed rabbits and poultry, depending on their size. The Burmese hatchlings eat one to two mice in three to four days before graduating to more giant rats. Adults eat one or two larger prey every 5-7 days.

How does the diet of Burmese pythons impact the ecosystem?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Burmese pythons are “one of the most concerning invasive species” in Florida. They eat native animals and compete with other non-native wildlife for food. The Burmese have been implicated in the decline and disappearance of several species of animals in Everglades National Park. The recent significant population decline of foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and opossums is directly linked to the Burmese python invasion.

As a result, the state introduced a python elimination program in 2017 to combat the spread of Burmese pythons since they are known to reproduce rapidly. Registered snake hunters are awarded money for catching a Burmese python, which is calculated based on the size and sex of the Burmese python. The FWC and SFWMD jointly manage the program.

So far, this program has removed more than 5,000 invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem, said SFWMD.

Are Burmese pythons venomous?

Burmese pythons are non-venomous snakes. Unlike other venomous snakes that attack by injecting venom, the Burmese kill an animal by squeezing it to death. They are typically afraid of people and generally avoid them but will bite when mishandled. Virtually all bites occur when the Burmese are intentionally bothered. Although the Burmese python does not possess any venom that is harmful to humans, its bite causes severe lacerations that require immediate medical attention.

How many people have been killed by Burmese pythons?

Giant constricting snakes killed sixteen people in the United States between 1978 and 2009. Seven of these deaths were attributed to the Burmese pythons in captivity. There have been no recorded human deaths from wild-living Burmese pythons in Florida. They seem to pose little threat in the wild. Researchers say they have only found one death report of a free-ranging Burmese python that killed an infant in Hong Kong about a century ago.

What other snakes are found in Florida?

Here are six other snakes that are found in Florida:

1. Timber Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes While HIking - Timber Rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnakes inhabit the pine Flatwoods, thickets, hardwood forests, and the edges of wet prairies and swamps.

Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are venomous snakes found in northern Florida in the Suwannee River Basin and extreme northeastern Panhandle. They inhabit the pine flatwoods, thickets, hardwood forests, and the edges of wet prairies and swamps.

Adults usually grow to 3-7 feet long and weigh between 1.1 and 3.3 pounds. Large specimens weigh as much as 9.9 pounds. They are gray, sometimes with a pinkish hue, and have a stripe down their backs.

2. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a pit viper species often found in coastal barriers, turkey oak hammocks, and sand pine scrub areas.

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The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is a pit viper species often found in coastal barriers, sand pine scrub areas, turkey oak hammocks, and pine flatwoods in Florida. It’s one of the venomous snakes in America, and the largest of the rattlesnakes, measuring between 2 and 8 feet. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes can be muddy gray, olive green, or blackish-gray. Their tails are gray and banded with dark rings.

3. Pygmy Rattlesnake

The pygmy rattlesnake grows up to 16-24 inches in total length.

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Pygmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius) are among the smallest snakes in Florida. They are venomous snakes that are found throughout the state. They grow up to 16-24 inches in total length. Their color pattern varies from light to dark gray, with a reddish-brown stripe running down the middle back.

4. Florida Cottonmouth

The average length of an adult Florida cottonmouth is 30–48 inches.

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Florida cottonmouths are heavy-bodied snakes that live near water. They often wander far from the water and have occasionally been found in trees and bushes. The average length of an adult Florida cottonmouth is 30–48 inches. These snakes have a pattern of light brown and dark brown crossbands that contain multiple dark blotches and speckles.

5. Eastern Copperhead

Eastern Copperhead
The eastern copperhead grows to a typical length of 20-27 inches.

Jeff W. Jarrett/Shutterstock.com

Eastern copperheads are pit vipers found in the Panhandle, particularly in the western tip along the Apalachicola River and its tributaries. They have distinctive light brown to gray crossbands overlaid with dark brown to reddish-brown crossbands. The eastern copperhead grows to a typical length of 20-27 inches, with a record of 53 inches.

6. Harlequin Coral Snake

An Eastern Coral Snake on decaying vegetation
The harlequin snake can be found in hammocks, dry scrublands, forests, and near wetlands.

Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Harlequin snakes (Micrurus fulvius) are highly venomous coral snakes that are found throughout Florida and in every county. These snakes can be found in hammocks, dry scrublands, forests, and near wetlands. They have distinctive red and black rings separated by narrow yellow rings. Their body scales are smooth and shiny. They grow up to 20-30 inches in total length.

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