19-foot Burmese python is longest caught in Florida: ‘Very chaotic’

This snake is making hiss-tory.

A 22-year-old captured the longest documented Burmese python caught in Florida.

The creepy-crawling critter was snagged by Jake Waleri in the Big Cypress National Preserve near Naples Monday night.

Waleri and pal Steven Gauta took the snake to Conservancy of Southwest Florida to be officially measured and examined — and the Conversancy's python team concluded it was indeed 19 feet and weighed 125 pounds.

South Florida now has the two longest Burmese pythons on record. Prior to this catch, the largest Burmese python caught in Florida was in October 2020 35 miles west of Miami and measured at 18 feet and 9 inches.

"It's awesome to be able to make an impact on South Florida's environment," Waleri told the Conservancy, which works to control the threat of the invasive Burmese python, in a press release. "We love this ecosystem and try to preserve it as much as possible."

Waleri admitted that capturing a snake of this size was "insane" and "very chaotic" — but it was also a dream.

"I knew we were capable of it but I didn't know it would happen," Waleri, who has been hunting snakes since 2020, told USA Today. "Last year my cousin and I caught a snake that was almost 18 feet long, and we realized we could handle a snake of that size."

"At first I just held onto the tail for dear life. And then one of my friends took a net and tried to pin its head down, and we quickly realized that was not a winning strategy," he added. "It's the only snake that's scared me so much that I didn't know what to do."

Waleri said that it's "concerning" that the snakes get bigger every year, and "we need to pull these big females out of the ecosystem before they lay eggs." [Another high-profile python captured this week was pregnant with 60 eggs but only measured around 16 feet.]

The record-breaking python could help experts learn more about the species.

"We had a feeling that these snakes get this big and now we have clear evidence. Her genetic material may prove valuable for an eventual understanding of the founding population of South Florida," biologist Ian Easterling said in the press release. "We will be collecting measurements and samples that will be distributed to our research."

Easterling added to USA Today that its likely the python had already laid about 100 eggs and was on the lookout for its next meal, but that it had no eggs inside of her.

Other Floridians can have the opportunity to hunt for pythons on their own, with the Florida Python Challenge running from Aug. 4 through Aug. 13.

The 10-day challenge offers a $10,000 prize, and is an "exciting conservation effort which helps protect the rare Everglades habitat and the animals that live there from these invasive, non-native snakes."

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