National Geographic

18-Foot-Long Monster Python Caught in Florida

A photo of an 18-foot-long python.
A near-record-breaking Burmese python measuring more than 18 feet long was discovered by engineers during a routine inspection of levees. Photograph by South Florida Water Management District, Reuters

What’s longer than a minivan and can swallow a whole deer for dinner? The enormous Burmese python that turned up in the Everglades this week—the second largest found in the fragile Florida wetland environment within the last year.

The snake was 18 feet 2 inches (5.5 meters) long and weighed about 150 pounds (68 kilograms). The biggest one, which was found and killed in May 2013, was about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) heavier and measured 18 feet 8 inches (5.7 meters). (See: “Longest Burmese Python Found in Florida.”)

A group of engineers discovered the giant while inspecting levees in Everglades National Park. The animal was shot and killed, and its body was delivered to the University of Florida for study.

Basking in the Sunshine State

Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia, but in 1992 Hurricane Andrew destroyed a reptile-breeding facility near the Everglades, releasing hundreds of pythons into the wild. In addition, an unknown number that escaped from or were released by exotic-pet owners have exacerbated the problem. (See: “Florida Python Hunt Captures 68 Invasive Snakes.”)

In the southernmost parts of the Sunshine State, where the climate reminds them of home and food is plentiful, these animals do just fine. (Other exotic species, including at least 139 different reptiles and amphibians, are also thriving in Florida.)

Big Eaters

The python population is in the thousands (commonly reported estimates of 100,000 or more are likely inflated), and they have eaten their way well beyond park borders.

The snakes feed on other reptiles, amphibians, and birds, but they’ve also taken a huge bite out of the Everglades’ various mammal populations, from raccoons to bobcats to deer. The state of Florida has given out permits for hunters to shoot the invasive species in an attempt to slow the feeding frenzy.

Slithering North?

In 2012 this snake species, along with three others, was banned from import into the U.S. Meanwhile, the pythons that are already here have expanded their range by moving north within Florida, and some conservationists and lawmakers worry that the animals will soon slither into the rest of the country.

But reptile experts say that Burmese pythons can’t survive in much chillier, drier environments. Cold snaps in Florida in 2010, for example, interfered with thermoregulation (management of body temperature, which snakes do by basking in the sun) and killed many of the tropics-loving reptiles.

Whether a warming climate will someday push the problem beyond Florida’s borders is unknown, but for now, the snakes continue growing to great lengths right where they are.

Follow Jennifer S. Holland on Twitter.


  1. Luis
    March 13, 10:51 am

    “It sad that even today that human beings cannot be responsible and learn to handle animals with care that they need.” Tell that to the baby panther who lost its mother to a Python that’s not even supposed to be there on the first place.

  2. Maggie Rutigliano
    February 18, 3:16 pm

    It sad that even today that human beings cannot be responsible and learn to handle animals with care that they need. This animal should of been in a pet shop or a zoo where he would of gotten the proper handling he needed. These snakes can be domesticated if people would only give them the chance. Instead of breeding for size breed them down in size miniatures so that these monsters don’t exist anymore. They should take large teams of people who know how to handle these snakes, go into the Everglades and clean it out once and for all. Send the caught snakes to different places where they can live out their lives and not be able to bother anybody. Put everybody should fully educated on good and bad snakes. Hey if people can learn not to be garbage in the streets then they can learn ,and put to practice this.

  3. steven
    February 9, 2:04 am

    pythons are hardly known here in africa so the rest of the world should deal with their

  4. Pete
    February 8, 12:25 pm

    The photo is showing a reticulated python, named after it’s makings. They can grow to be much larger than this one. Snakes never really stop growing. Their rate of growth does slow down though as they get older. I used to love to hunt snakes as a boy but the largest we had were 6 to 8 foot black racers and black rat snakes. They had plenty of teeth like this guy has. Water snakes are always the meanest. Retics are a type of water snake in my opinion. What people don’t realize is that even a wild snake when handled enough will become docile. There is a trick, like a dog, snakes love to have their neck stroked on the underside. But every time you go to handle a particular snake it is like your first time. Never give up in a fight with a snake, pin it’s head and use your weight to hold its body down. The big guys, constrictors will wrap. Never let them double wrap and use your free hand to unwrap them. This advice was given to me by a friend that is a herpetologist that handles big snakes. People who wear a big snake on their neck are flirting with death, it is a stupid practice. Most big snakes are not as powerful as a fairly muscular man, and big snakes can be unwrapped. A gripping bite though is a different story. This guy in the photo has hundreds of long razor sharp teeth. Aside from lacerations, infection is also a major concern.

  5. Fred
    February 7, 2:16 pm

    “The animal was shot and killed”


  6. Momma
    February 7, 12:36 pm

    Irresponsible snake owners buy these snakes for the cool factor of wanting to say they own something really big. (Overcompensating for other shortcomings?) Then, when they realize their python has grown big enough to become menacing, these losers dump their snakes in the wild. For shame. I’m curious if the 2012 reticulated ban included bans on reticulated pythons, too?

  7. kamoga hamudani
    February 7, 12:04 pm

    I am here with mi brother they have started atopic about this reptiles he want to know more about this . Thanks , most especially about snakes.a.

  8. Erik Kennedy
    Christchurch, NZ
    February 6, 9:47 pm

    ‘The animal was shot and killed, and its body was delivered to the University of Florida for study.’

    Obviously. What else would they do with it?

  9. lee
    United States
    February 6, 3:03 pm

    Put it on a pizza!