Snake hunters catch 17-foot python they thought was an alligator: ‘It was crazy’

Snake hunters catch 17-foot python they thought was an alligator: ‘It was crazy’


They’re gonna need a bigger rope.

Another day, another behemoth serpent rearing its head amid Florida’s Burmese python invasion.

This time, Panhandle python hunters made hiss-tory after corralling a nearly 200-pound snake — the second largest ever bagged in the state.

“Her head was the size of a football,” conservationist Mike Elfenbein told Fox 35 News of the “surreal” capture, which occurred over the weekend in the Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida.

The Floridian — who is not a professional snake hunter — and his son, Cole, had just met three other men searching for Burmese pythons, an invasive snake from Southeast Asia that is now running rampant across the southern United States.

“We all came across this giant snake in the road at the exact same time,” recalled Elfenbein, who said the snake initially looked so big that they thought it was an alligator.

“It took every bit of energy we had to do this,” said Mike Elfenbein, left, with his son, Cole.
Mike Elfenbein

It reportedly took all five people to get the reptile under control.

“I had her by the head,” said Elfenbein while recalling the experience. “My son grabbed her by the tail. And the other three guys all piled on in the middle.

“And with all five of us sitting on top of her, she was still literally able to lift her body off the ground and keep moving,” he added.

“It was crazy. It was crazy.”

They weren’t exaggerating their quarry’s size. The monster Burmese python officially measured 17-foot-2-inches long and 23 inches in girth, and weighed 198 pounds, as confirmed by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

This marks the second-heaviest snake ever caught in the Sunshine State.

The biggest was a 215-pound, 18-foot bruiser that was bagged by researchers in 2022. Meanwhile, the longest-ever Burmese python was a 19-foot behemoth caught this past summer in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The Florida python hunters pose with their massive quarry.
Mike Elfenbein

The snake wrangler and his team didn’t catch the constrictor to stroke some great white hunter ego, but rather to help combat the plague of invasive serpents ravaging the Panhandle.

“I’m not looking to compete with anybody. I’m not a contractor,” declared Elfenbein, who plans to keep the supersized specimen’s skull in a display. “I’m just a guy trying to do something good.”

He could be facing an uphill battle. Originally introduced to Florida in the 1970s as part of the exotic pet trade, the Burmese python has established breeding populations in the Everglades and other parts of the state’s southern half.

The species is particularly problematic as it possesses no natural predators in Florida aside from humans. That makes them a major threat to the state’s birds, mammals and other native wildlife.

“We all came across this giant snake in the road at the exact same time,” Elfenbein said.
Mike Elfenbein

Despite efforts to control the python population — including the annual Florida python challenge in which competitors try to kill as many snakes as possible — the problem could be “intractable” at this point.

“Overall eradication of pythons in southern Florida is likely impossible,” wrote researchers in a paper released earlier this year by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). “Suppression of the python population, even at local scales, will require strategic coordination of researchers, land managers, funding, public outreach, implementation of several different complimentary tools and rigorous evaluation of these tools.”

Ben Cost

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