A record-setting Burmese python nearly 19 feet in length was captured and killed in a rural part of Miami-Dade County, officials announced this week.
Measuring 18 feet 8 inches, it is the longest Burmese python that has ever been found in the area.
The snake was discovered by Jason Leon, 23, a marine biology student at Florida International University. Leon was riding all terrain vehicles with friends in Florida City, about 35 miles south of Miami, when he spotted 3 feet of the python poking out of the brush, the Sun Sentinel reports.
Having kept Burmese pythons as pets, Leon knew to grab it from behind the head when he tried to pull it out. That's when the snake started to wrap its lengthy body around Leon's.
"At one point it was wrapped around both my legs and one of my arms," Leon told the Sun Sentinel. "I knew I had to keep it away from my neck."
"I wasn't scared," he added. "I had two other people right there. I knew if it came down to it they would help me out."
After struggling with the snake for 10 minutes, Leon finally cut off its head.
Researchers from the University of Florida collected the snake. A necropsy revealed that it was female, and was not carrying any eggs. It weighed 128 lbs.
The scientists also lay down next to it, showing that it was roughly three full-grown scientists in length.
The Burmese python is an invasive species in Florida that has spread across several thousand square miles of land. It is difficult to track because it camouflages very well, can stay mostly submerged in water with just the tip of its snout sticking out, and being an ambush predator, it doesn't move around that much. It also lives in land that is not easily accessible to humans.
The giant snake is native to southern and southeast Asia, but has been established in the Florida Everglades since at least the early 2000s and possibly earlier than that, said Bob Reed, a wildlife biologist who works at the United States Geological Service in Fort Collins, Colo.
The snake doesn't usually attack humans, but it does eat native Florida wildlife, including several endangered species.
Reed said he was not at all surprised to hear that such a long Burmese python had been discovered.
"We know they get this big, and we know that invasive snakes can get bigger on their invaded range than they get in their native range," he said.
The previous record holder in Florida was a Burmese python that grew to 17 feet 7 inches in length. Most Burmese pythons are closer to the 10-foot range.