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Near-Record Breaking Python Captured in Florida Everglades

Feb 05, 2014 03:21 PM EST

A nearly record-breaking 18-foot long Burmese python was captured in the Florida Everglades around noon on Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported. This is the second female python measuring over 18 feet in length that has been captured in the Everglades over the last year.

This past May, a snake collector discovered the largest python ever recorded in Florida, measuring 18 feet 8 inches in length, commission spokeswoman Katie Johnson told Reuters.

District spokesman Randy Smith told the Miami Herald that the python, which later died, would be shipped to the University of Florida, where biologists working to combat the species will examine the remains.

Escaped or released pet Burmese pythons are likely the origins of the breeding population that's overrun south Florida over the past two decades, writes Live Science. Finding no natural predators in the state, the python population has exploded, and is wiping out native wildlife.

"You'd be hard pressed to find a rabbit or squirrel down there in the Everglades now," Smith told Live Science. "These snakes eat alligators - or they try to. They don't have any enemies and they eat anything they can get their teeth on."

The infestation began after Hurricane Andrew struck the state in 1992, which is believed to have resulted in the intentional or accidental release of pet pythons.

After their release, python numbers reached nearly 150,000. A sharp eight-year decline of mammal populations in the region was traced back to pythons according to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

After public hunts, radio tracking colors and snake-sniffing dogs did little to reverse the python population trend, the US Department of Agriculture patented a trap specifically designed to capture the large snakes in September of 2013.

In the meantime, the University of Florida biologists will continue to study the invasive species. 

Read more about Florida's python problem here.

On Feb. 6 this article was edited to clarify that the python was captured and later died. 

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