Giant Florida Burmese Python Had Hoofs in Stomach and Was Carrying 122 Eggs

A giant Burmese python—the biggest ever found in the Florida Everglades—was found with hoofs in its stomach and to be carrying 122 eggs.

The snake measured nearly 18 feet in length and weighed 215 pounds, National Geographic reported. Burmese pythons can reach an average size of 8 to 10 feet, however they can grow much larger in rare cases.

After its capture, a necropsy found that the female snake had hoof cores in the digestive tract, meaning her last meal was likely a white tailed deer.

The snake was also carrying a "record number" of 122 eggs, meaning she was a reproductively active female—just what researchers were hoping to find.

Burmese python
Researchers Ian Bartoszek (left), Ian Easterling, and intern Kyle Findley (right) transport a record breaking female Burmese Python weighing 215 pounds and measuring 17.7 feet in length to their lab in Naples, Florida, to be laid out and photographed Maggie Steber, National Geographic

A team of python trackers from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida caught the ginormous female in December.

The researchers were "near speechless" when they first took the weight of the female.

"I'm reading 215 pounds," Ian Bartoszek, a wildlife biologist and manager of the python project, said at the time of the find. "Wow."

An intern on the project, Kyle Findley, told National Geographic that at first, he thought the scale was broken.

"That was kind of a line in the sand. We wondered if we'd ever cross 200 pounds," Bartoszek told National Geographic. "It raised the bar."

Burmese pythons are an invasive species to Florida. They were first introduced to the environment in the 1970s—it is likely they were pets released into the wild. Ever since, they have been severely impacting the native ecosystem. Since their introduction, they have feasted on native wildlife, such as white tailed deer, making it a major issue in preserving the wetlands.

Researchers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida were specifically scouting for large, reproductively active females at the time of the find—their aim is to eradicate the amount of pythons being hatched in the Everglades, in order to control the population.

To do this they used another male "scout snake," to lure the female out of her hiding place. According to National Geographic, it would be nearly impossible to find such a large, reproductively active female without using this method—males are able to smell other female snakes from miles away.

Around 15,000 pythons have been killed or removed from the Everglades by Florida Fish & Wildlife since 2000. But scientists have no idea how many more may be lurking in the Everglades.

"That's the ten-million-dollar question," Bartoszek told National Geographic. "We don't even know the order of magnitude... The Everglades are a haystack, and the [eggs] are the needles. To find a needle, we use a magnet."

Once this python was found, it was euthanized by veterinarians. The researchers then carried out a necropsy on the animal.

The size of the snakes caught by researchers is key in managing the population. According to Sarah Funck, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, large reproductive females are "very important" to remove from the ecosystem.

And the python was not just large in length—its snout to the back of its skull measured almost six inches. The widest part of its body measured 25 inches.

Python
Researcher Ian Bartoszek sifts through dozens of proto eggs while performing a necropsy on the largest female Burmese python ever discovered in Florida. The team counted 122 of these “follicles,” another record breaking tally Maggie Steber, National Geographic)