National Geographic
Menu

Longest Burmese Python Found in Florida

A Florida man recently found an 18.8-foot-long (5.7-meter-long) Burmese python—the longest ever found in the state. That’s exactly a foot longer than the former record-holder, caught in August 2012, which measured 17.7 feet (5.4 meters).

But what Jason Leon, 23, did next may also break the record for questionable snake behavior—he decided to tussle with it, despite the fact that such constrictors are basically nature’s professional wrestlers.

biggest burmese python in Florida picture

Jason Leon holds the record-breaking snake (left), which University of Florida scientists measured at 18.8 feet long (right). Photograph by Reuters/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

According to the Miami CBS station, Leon spotted the snake while driving late at night in a rural area of Miami-Dade County.

“Leon stopped his car, grabbed the snake behind its head and started dragging it out of the brush. When the snake began to wrap itself around his leg, he called for assistance from others and then used a knife to kill the snake,” CBS reported.

Leon, who reportedly has experience handling snakes, emerged unscathed.

Florida Invaders

For his act of disentanglement Leon is receiving props from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for removing the lengthy reptile from Florida’s wilderness, where pythons are a serious problem.

Originally from India and East Asia, the pythons are considered an invasive species in Florida. Burmese pythons are one of nine species of constrictor snakes, numbering about a million individuals, that have been imported into the United States over the past three decades, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Many of these animals, which can grow to a length of 20 feet (6 meters), have either escaped or been released into the wild, and are especially fond of the Everglades. (See Everglades pictures.)

Though they’re preyed upon by other species while small, when the snakes reach full size they have no natural predators and can wreak havoc on native ecosystems.

Burmese pythons “can eat anything from small mammals, other reptiles, and birds. It kind of runs the gamut,” said FWC spokesperson Carli Segelson. (Related: Pythons Eating Through Everglades Mammals at ‘Astonishing’ Rate?”)

She added that along with consuming native animals, “they also can outcompete native wildlife for food sources.”

Putting the Squeeze on Pythons

The invading serpents are such a big problem that the FWC has organized a yearly snake-catching marathon called the Python Challenge, which encourages participants to round up the creatures for cash prizes.

This year’s Python Challenge netted 68 snakes in Florida, and Segelson said the program will help determine what the snakes are eating, as well as “how an incentive-based program [can] help cut down on the population.” (“Opinion: Florida’s Great Snake Hunt Is a Cheap Stunt.”)

Which would certainly be good news for Florida’s unique native wildlife. “The Everglades ecosystem is a really important habitat for a variety of animals,” said Segelson. “There’s nothing like it in the rest of the country.” (See a picture of a python that exploded while eating an alligator.)

The FWC is encouraging owners of non-native or exotic pets to turn them over, no questions asked, rather than release them into the environment. The commission is also working with snake experts and licensed hunters to reduce Burmese python populations, especially in South Florida where the snake is most abundant.

Anyone who spots a python is recommended to call the FWC’s toll-free hotline at 888-IVE-GOT-1, through free IveGot1 apps, or www.ivegot1.org—rather than going to the mat with a giant snake.

Comments

  1. Sam owen
    Ga
    November 20, 2013, 5:48 pm

    I hate friggin snakes and I hope they kill every one they can find. What a moronic question…why did he kill it? They are invasive and eat anything they can find. They cannot distinguish between a dog , cat , chicken or child! They are not native to the Everglades and they are destroying the habitat and eating the place up. Eventually it will be nothing but a big snake hole until they start moving north.

  2. cindy
    michigan
    October 28, 2013, 10:51 pm

    Playing the death card was ignorance.

  3. yogesh khairnar
    nasik, india
    September 11, 2013, 3:59 am

    its very serious threat to local ecosystem of Everglades. Instead of killing them we should seek a way to sterile them.
    We are also a evaded humans in some manners for other species!

  4. kenneth reed
    poplur bluff
    September 6, 2013, 2:47 pm

    wow nice going guys its huge!!!

  5. Ervin Williamson
    Birmingham Alabama
    August 14, 2013, 1:02 am

    Pretty snake. Everglades is such a beautiful place, very magical. Unfortunately, there are so many feral animals affecting the indigenous species.

  6. Lindsey
    Utica ks
    August 3, 2013, 4:05 am

    Also i dont have experiance with pythons or w.e. but the bull snake is also a constricting type.

  7. Lindsey
    Utica ks
    August 3, 2013, 4:04 am

    We get alot of rattel and bull snakes and they are frighteningly similer cept one isnt poisonous. Id have kept it amd kept feeding it. I have a bull snake and hes beautifull. Can be a bot moody but hes really nice. Hes smart too! Hes never once struck at me and ive had him quite a while. I caught him bare handed and he only tried struggeling for a little while. After that i could go up 2 his cage put my hand down and hed crawl right up for attention. He was also trying to eacape. Ive noticed that if hes crawling away its safer to pick him up. If he feels cornered or in danger he will steike as is native snake behavior. If he feels he cant get away he will fight. Ive tested him and its true for other snakes. Larger ones though they are less afraid and will hiss rartle their tails and strike. Idk if id been in that sichuation id have done the same thing but id have not killed him. Just held still or stroke him gently and he would have loosened.

  8. Megan Adams
    United Kingdom
    July 30, 2013, 5:34 pm

    The longest snake is 25ft 2 inches.

    I hate it when animals get killed

  9. Darlington N. Diggs
    Monrovia, Liberia
    July 29, 2013, 9:06 am

    Nice fight, happy you made it unscracthed

  10. MS.DADA
    EASTBAY
    July 16, 2013, 12:39 pm

    WTF… I HATE WHEN PEOPLE KILL ANIMALS WHEN THEIR JUST TRYING TO GET BY OR AWAY FROM HARM. PRETTY SOON THE BURMA PYTHON MIGHT GO EXTINCT. AND WHO TO BLAME THE PEOPLE.THAT SNAKE WAS MINDING IT OWN.

  11. LaBella
    July 13, 2013, 1:36 pm

    tom I guess you don’t get it. The python is not native. Not only that, but it is eating up the native species, and it is out competing native species.
    This is not Burma where the bermese comes from, it’s Florida, it wasn’t never meant to be there in the first place.

    He killed it because that is what you do with invasive species that are threats to native populations that can lay up to a hundred eggs at a time.
    Tell me Zubin, where could the snake have been released? It does not belong wild anywhere in the US.

  12. Alex
    sydney
    July 4, 2013, 7:14 pm

    Why killed the snake? Human – a serious problem!

  13. Galloway Grumblefield
    South Florida
    June 28, 2013, 6:53 am

    The snake is an invader that is destroying the native eco-system. They eat birds and alligators, the true owners of the Everglades. Kill them. Kill them all!

  14. wilson banda
    zambia
    June 27, 2013, 8:49 am

    wow wow yes why did he kill it.

  15. eugenecolebrandon stinks lol
    saskatoon
    June 20, 2013, 11:41 am

    me. this is real big……..
    friend.thats what she said …….

  16. eugenecolebrandon stinks lol
    canada
    June 20, 2013, 11:39 am

    this is real big

  17. nashath
    June 12, 2013, 1:10 am

    Wow!

  18. khalid maqsood
    dubai
    June 9, 2013, 2:56 am

    it is very nice thank you

  19. sudipta bandopadhya
    Baghbazar,Calcutta,India
    June 3, 2013, 10:23 am

    Very hard and risk factor to keep it.

  20. Keith Brumwell
    Seattle Wa.
    June 1, 2013, 4:20 pm

    You need to put a bounty on these invasive species & make tough laws about importing invasives into our country.

  21. Dan McCarty
    United States
    May 31, 2013, 5:31 pm

    Is the leather of the snakes captured in the Python Challenge used or made into anything?

  22. tom
    May 31, 2013, 2:25 pm

    Can anyone explain to me why some consider so called ‘invasive species’ a scourge? Over time all species are invasive; Ask any true botanist about ‘native’ plants and animals, and they have to ask in return: “Since which ice sheet, meteor strike or volcanic eruption should we assign ‘native’ status?

    Maybe another way to look at it is natural selection: Those that thrive are superior to those that don’t, and the least adaptive die out. If that is true, then the endangered species act is folly. It seems we spend a lot of time fighting nature or, more specifically, change.

  23. Mike
    May 31, 2013, 10:10 am

    Interesting! I hope that everyone has a great and safe weekend!

  24. Zubin Balaporia
    India
    May 30, 2013, 11:38 pm

    Why kill such a beautiful snake? The snake was not threatening Jason. If it caused problems to the eco system it could have been caught and released somewhere where it could contribute to nature’s natural wildlife program. Frankly in my book, this guy is an ass and his actions unfortunately speak for most of mankind today. Don’t like something? Kill it.

  25. katelyn
    tampa
    May 30, 2013, 5:15 pm

    OMG that thin is big how did you hold it it must have wayed a ton

  26. Josh
    May 30, 2013, 12:36 pm

    So summarising:

    Find snake
    Take snake
    snake doesn’t want to be abducted and struggles
    kill snake

  27. intekhb shoukat ali
    gwadar, pakistan
    May 30, 2013, 10:57 am

    amizing…

  28. varma honeyrudh
    malaysia
    May 29, 2013, 1:07 am

    so a nice details 10qqq

  29. Thomas Alexander
    Cyprus
    May 23, 2013, 4:03 pm

    Why did he kill it?