Two cousins from Hardee County captured a snake on their family property this past week. And we’re not just talking about any snake.
It turned out to be a Burmese python more than 16 feet long and close to 300 pounds.
“He was huge,” said Bobby Wilkinson, who couldn’t believe it when his cousin Aaron Brown first told him he’d spotted the enormous snake on the family’s property in Zolfo Springs.
“It was very odd,” Wilkinson said. “Whenever he told me he had a snake as big as his truck you know, I’m like come on man.”
But when he got there, coiled up inside a culvert was a snake bigger than anything they had ever seen.
“I looked in there and it was like holy cow,” Wilkinson said. “He looked as big around as a five-gallon bucket.”
Eventually, the family caught and killed the snake but at first, Wilkinson didn’t have a tape measure. So, they estimated the snake’s length by laying his cousin, stepson, and daughter next to it.
“I said you all lay down and that will give us a rough idea of how long the snake is. You know, because I was telling him this snake is 16-foot plus,” he said.
Once measured up, it ended up being a 16-foot and 4-inch python.
Pythons are an invasive species that has decimating wildlife in the Florida Everglades for nearly three decades. So, finding a snake this big and this far north is a big concern.
Was this snake someone’s pet that escaped years ago and has managed to survive? Or are the reptiles migrating?
“Are they moving up this way? Let’s hope not,” Wilkinson said. “But there are plenty of animals where I am at for them to feed on. So, they’re going to go to where the food sources if they’re depleting the Everglades and the ecosystem and running out of food down in the Everglades, just like anything else they’re going to start traveling looking for food.”
Even more disturbing, the snake had about a hundred eggs inside it, according to Wilkinson.
They’ve since handed the serpent over to well-known python hunter Dusty Crum who says he’s been in contact with FWC.
Wildlife experts plan to check the snake for a chip to see if it ever was a pet. They also plan to examine the eggs to see if they were fertilized because, if so, this reptile wasn’t alone.
“I’m hoping it was just a freak incident. That it was somebody’s pet that got out,” Wilkinson said. “We’re going to wait and see.”
FWC says the largest python found so far in Florida measured more than 18 feet long. It was captured and killed this past October in a canal about 35 miles west of Miami.