NAPLES, FL -- Florida researchers found a nearly 18-foot long, 215 pound python, the largest ever found outside its native habitat.
Pythons are native to Southeast Asia. They're an invasive species in Florida. They were brought there in the 1970s, likely in the exotic pet trade.
During an April necropsy, the record-breaking python's head measured nearly 6 inches from the tip of her snout to the back of her skull. The widest part of her body measured 25 inches.
The python had hoof cores in her digestive tract, which researchers say indicates her last meal was an adult white-tailed deer.
When the researchers weighed the snake, they couldn't believe it.
"I thought the scale was broken," intern Kyle Findley said.
Florida Fish & Wildlife has killed or removed more than 15,000 pythons since 2000, but ultimately nobody knows how many more are living in and damaging the state's ecosystem.
To help track down the pythons, researchers use scout snakes or snitch snakes: male pythons with surgically implanted transmitters. The males are released into the wild during the breeding season, and researchers follow them to find female pythons and eradicate them.
"Large reproductive female pythons are very important to remove from these ecosystems," according to biologist Sarah Funck. She said the big females are disproportionately capable of giving birth to many babies, which is why they're more important to find.
The record-breaking female snake had 122 eggs lining her inside from her stomach to her tail; the eggs were not yet fully mature.
To learn more about how researchers caught this record-breaking python and what they hope to learn from studying her, check out this feature in National Geographic.
Note: The video in the video player at the top of this page is from a previous story on pythons in Florida.