Man catches largest python ever found in Florida

Published On: May 20 2013 05:17:38 PM EDT

COURTESY: FWC

Pictured: Jason Leon (left) with the Burmese python he caught Sunday. Researchers (right) lie next to the snake.

MIAMI -

A South Florida man caught the largest Burmese python -- 18 feet, 8 inches long and 128 pounds -- ever found in Florida.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said Jason Leon, of Hialeah, found the 18-foot, 8-inch beast while riding in a rural area in southeast Miami-Dade County on May 11. About 3 feet of the snake was spotted sticking out of some roadside brush.

Leon said he stopped his car, grabbed the snake from behind its head, and started dragging it out of the brush. When the snake tried to wrap itself around Leon's leg, he called to his friends for help and then killed it with a knife.

He once owned Burmese pythons as pets and knew how to handle the snake, according to the wildlife commission.

Leon reported the python to the local wildlife commission office, which connected him with the Florida's exotic species hotline. The snake was eventually turned over to University of Florida researchers for a necropsy.

The female snake was not carrying any eggs, the University of Florida scientists said.

"This event highlights how the exotic species hotline allows the public to help us obtain more information about Burmese pythons, so we can improve management of this invasive species," Sommers said.

The previous record for the longest python caught in the wild in Florida was a 17-foot-7-inch, 164 ½-pound python caught in August in Everglades National Park.

Pythons are an invasive species in Florida, where researchers believe they are eating their way through populations of native mammals in the Everglades. No one knows exactly how many pythons there are here, but the population likely developed from pets released into the wild.

Florida now prohibits owning or selling pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans importation and interstate sale of the species.

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