17-foot python with 73 developing eggs found in Florida nature preserve

OCHOPEE, Fla. -- A 17-foot python removed from a South Florida nature preserve is the largest one ever found in the park, according to wildlife officials.

Researchers located the female python, who weighed 140 pounds and contained 73 developing eggs, at Big Cypress National Preserve, a 720,000-acre preserve approximately 50 miles west of Miami. Scientists there use radio transmitters to track the invasive python populations, which threaten native animals and the broader ecosystem when not controlled.

It's not immediately clear where the python was relocated. Big Cypress National Preserve wrote on Facebook that its Resource Management division has recently worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to remove multiple breeding female pythons from the property.

Native to southeast Asia, the Burmese python was introduced to South Florida "as a result of accidental escapes and intentional releases of pet snakes," according to the University of Florida. The snakes are known to feed on deer, alligators, birds and endangered or otherwise at-risk species like Key Largo woodrats and potentially Florida panthers. Researchers believe that the invasive species could be responsible for the declining numbers of several species in Everglades National Park.

The pythons live near freshwater habitats, where they can thrive for a quarter century. While the 17-foot female was the largest one ever removed from Big Cypress National Preserve, the species can grow to be 23 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds.

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