MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
A Burmese python captured in the Florida Everglades has set a record for the state. She was 17 feet, seven inches long. She also weighed 164 pounds and was found to be carrying 87 eggs when she was dissected.
Burmese pythons are an invasive species causing much ecological havoc in the Everglades. Research ecologist Kristen Hart led the team that captured the python earlier this year. And, Kristen, tell us, how do you capture a python who's almost 18 feet long?
KRISTEN HART: Very carefully and...
BLOCK: Yeah. I thought you'd say that.
HART: ...with your bare hands and it takes a lot of effort. Our employees, Thomas and Brian, were tracking a male snake and they found him. They relocated his location and, as they got a visual on him, they heard another slithering sort of sound in the bushes and they checked and it was this huge female and so they immediately started catching her and one grabbed the tail. The other one went for the head and, essentially, you know, caught her and tired her out just by holding her and sort of fighting against her as she fought against them.
Then, they had to figure out where to get out of the Everglades.
BLOCK: Now, what we do?
HART: So, yeah. Now, what do we do? Right. And so they hoisted her on their necks and started marching out through the brush, through the vegetation.
BLOCK: And you'd been following this python, in particular, for some time?
HART: Well, yeah. After her initial capture, we brought her into the lab and performed surgery to implant two radio tracking devices, as well as two other bio-logging devices and then we released her into the wild for an approximate period of 40 days.
BLOCK: Now, wait. If you had her, why did you go ahead and release her?
HART: Basically, we were at the point of really needing to understand the biology of these animals and so, instead of putting her down, as is the fate of all these pythons in the Everglades, we decided to put her back out as sort of a scout.
BLOCK: What do these pythons eat in the Everglades? Or maybe what don't they eat?
HART: Yeah. Well, they eat almost anything they want. A lot of birds and a lot of small and medium-sized mammals. They also do eat alligators and they're fairly large.
BLOCK: Do you have any sense of how many Burmese pythons remain in the Everglades uncaught?
HART: Well, there's a lot of speculation about what the number is, you know, how many are there? I believe there's probably around tens of thousands of them. That's the number I give. There's just a lot of area that we can't cover to properly census to really answer that question.
BLOCK: Kristen Hart, thanks for talking to us about it.
HART: Thank you. Have a good day.
BLOCK: That's Kristen Hart, research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Davie, Florida, talking about the record-setting Burmese python that was captured there, 17 feet, seven inches long.
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