Deep in the swamps of Florida's Picayune Strand State Forest lived a Burmese python so large that it took three men to carry it out of the Everglades.
Researchers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida captured this massive female python that turned out to weigh 215 pounds and measure 17.7 feet long – deeming it the largest python ever recorded in Florida—or anywhere outside its native range.
Douglas Main, senior writer and editor at National Geographic, told DailyMail.com in an interview: 'It is incredible because of the scale involved. It is almost heavier than most people.
'It is also cool because it shows the success of this technique using scout snakes, which are male pythons with GPS transmitters. The males are released and the snakes lead them to large reproductive females.'
Deep in the swamps of Florida's Picayune Strand State Forest lived a Burmese python so large that it took three men to carry it out of the Everglades
The giant snake was caught in December, euthanized and put on ice in a freezer until April. National Geographic's Rebecca Dzombak traveled to a lab in Naples to watch the researchers perform a necropsy.
It took about 48 hours for the carcass to thaw and Dzombak said in her feature that 'the smell does not improve with time.'
The researchers began by slicing along the center of the python's belly and then they pealed open its ribs to access the underneath fat layer, which allowed them to uncover a few other interesting things.
Hidden in the body were 122 proto-eggs – the most ever found inside a python.
Researchers also took several measurements of the snake, noting its head measured nearly six inches from the tip of her snout to the back of her skull
However, the eggs had not been fertilized yet.
The python had hoof cores and bits of fur in her digestive tract, which researchers say indicates her last meal was an adult white-tailed deer.
'White tailed-deer is the main prey for endangered Florida panthers,' Main said.
'So this is concerning.'
Main told DailyMail.com that he is working on a story about the endangered panthers, noting that there are just about 200 in all of Florida.
Researchers also took several measurements of the snake, noting its head measured nearly six inches from the tip of her snout to the back of her skull. The widest part of her body measured 25 inches.
The scout pythons are key to tracking down females in the wild. These males typically make their way to reproductive females during breeding season and sometimes even groups of females and males.
And a male scout named Dion led researchers to the prized female python.
The Conservancy team has removed more than 1,000 pythons weighing a combined 25,000lbs since 2013 using this technique.
Since 2000, Florida Fish & Wildlife has killed or removed over 15,000 pythons, with over 1,000 removed every year beginning in 2017. Pictured is another Burmese python that measured 17ft long
'Since 2000, Florida Fish & Wildlife has killed or removed over 15,000 pythons, with over 1,000 removed every year beginning in 2017. But scientists have no idea how many thousands more there might be,' Main shared.
Pythons are native to Southeast Asia, but have been wreaking havoc in the Florida since the 1970s.
The snakes came to Florida as pets, but owners discarded them into the wild where they began to multiply and grow to massive lengths.
The female python's death was not in vain, as it will help researchers learn more about these creatures that have eluded scientists since arriving in the US.
'Because they are so hard to find we don't know much about their biology, which is ironic because they are huge snakes running around,' Main said.
He continued to explain that pythons feast on 73 different species found in Florida.
'24 mammals, 47 birds and two types of lizards,' Main said.
'All have been found in snakes throughout Florida and are taking a huge toll.'
'Knowing what they eat is very important. Seeing how many eggs there are tells you how many offspring they could have and how that varies between different individuals and models potential output and how quickly population could grow.'
Florida authorities are unsure about the number of pythons living in the state, but the going estimate is at least 30,000 to 300,000.
'Pythons are found all over the place, neighborhoods and suburbs,' said Main.
'Researchers said people would be alarmed to know how widespread they are.'