'Dionysus' Leads Team to Record-Breaking Python

At nearly 18 feet, female was biggest python ever captured in Florida
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 23, 2022 3:21 AM CDT
Team Hauls in Biggest Python Ever Found in Florida
This photo provided by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida shows biologists Ian Bartoszek, right, and Ian Easterling, center, with intern Kyle Findley and a 17.7-foot, 215-pound female Burmese python captured by tracking a male scout snake in Picayune Strand State Forest.   (Conservancy of Southwest Florida via AP)

(Newser) – A team of biologists recently hauled in the heaviest Burmese python ever captured in Florida, officials say. The female python weighed in at 215 pounds, was nearly 18 feet long and had 122 developing eggs, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said in a news release. The team used radio transmitters transplanted in male "scout" snakes to study python movements, breeding behaviors, and habitat use, says Ian Bartoszek, wildlife biologist and environmental science project manager for the conservancy's program.

"How do you find the needle in the haystack? You could use a magnet, and in a similar way our male scout snakes are attracted to the biggest females around," Bartoszek says. The team used a scout snake named Dionysus—or Dion for short—in an area of the western Everglades, the AP reports. "We knew he was there for a reason, and the team found him with the largest female we have seen to date." Biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley helped capture the female snake and haul her through the woods to the field truck. A necropsy also found hoof cores in the snake's digestive system, meaning that an adult white-tailed deer was its last meal.

National Geographic documented the discovery, highlighting the continued impact of the invasive pythons, which are known for rapid reproduction and depletion of surrounding native wildlife. Bartoszek said removal of female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the breeding cycle. "This is the wildlife issue of our time for southern Florida," he said. Since the conservancy’s python program began in 2013, they've removed over 1,000 pythons from approximately 100 square miles in southwest Florida. The state’s python removal program runs for two weeks in August. Participants compete for prizes, including $2,500 for capturing the most pythons. (Researchers recently spotted a native bobcat raiding a python nest.)

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