Note: This story is reprinted from a Pete Thomas story posted Monday on the GrindTv.com Outdoor channel
The discovery in the Everglades of a Burmese python measuring 17 feet, 7 inches -- the largest ever found in Florida -- was startling enough. But inside the monstrous reptile were 87 eggs, also a state record, which help to illustrate how serious a problem wildlife experts have on their hands with this remarkably prolific invasive species.
"This thing is monstrous, it's about a foot wide," Kenneth Krysko, Florida Museum herpetology collection manager, said in a story published Monday by the University of Florida. "It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there's nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble."
The 164.5-pound python, captured recently inside Everglades National Park, was examined Friday at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.
It was found to have been in good health before it was killed, and inside its stomach were feathers from a species of bird still to be determined.
The reptiles are voracious, capable of devouring deer, bobcats, alligators and other large animals.
"A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants," Krysko said. "By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species."
Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia and were first discovered in the Everglades in 1979. The problem was caused, presumably, by people releasing their unwanted pet snakes into the wild.
The reptiles, once they become large, have no natural predators and their abundance throughout the Everglades -- there could be thousands, or even hundreds of thousands -- has resulted in laws banning the possession and transportation across state lines of Burmese pythons.
"They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior," Krysko said. "Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python. We've found 14 in a single day."
The previous state-record python measured 16 feet, 8 inches. The most eggs previously collected from a python: 85.
It remains unclear how many eggs a python is capable of developing but wildlife biologist Skip Snow stated: "I think one of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability. This shows they're a really reproductive animal, which aids in their invasiveness."
Photo: Florida Museum of Natural History researchers examine state-record Burmese python, which measured 17 feet, 7 inches. Second image shows some of 87 eggs removed from the snake. Credit: Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History