The largest ever Burmese python found in the Florida Everglades has been trapped by scientists with the help of another snake.
The massive 18-foot-long female weighed 215 pounds and was discovered with 122 developing eggs inside her, another record.
She was spotted by wildlife biologists from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which tracks and studies Burmese Pythons – an invasive species.
The team used radio transmitters transplanted in male “scout” snakes to study python movements, breeding behaviours and habitat use.
“How do you find the needle in the haystack?” project manager Ian Bartoszek asked, rhetorically.
“You could use a magnet, and in a similar way our male scout snakes are attracted to the biggest females around.”
The team were tracking male python Dionysus, named after the Greek god of fertility, in an area of the western Everglades.
“We knew he was there for a reason, and the team found him with the largest female we have seen to date,” said Mr Bartoszek.
“The removal of female pythons plays a critical role in disrupting the breeding cycle of these apex predators that are wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem and taking food sources from other native species.
“This is the wildlife issue of our time for southern Florida.”
Biologist Ian Easterling and intern Kyle Findley helped capture the female and haul her through the woods to the field truck.
Since the conservancy’s python program began in 2013, they’ve removed over 1,000 pythons from approximately 100 square miles in south-west Florida.
Before the recent discovery, the largest female removed through the conservancy’s programme weighed 185 pounds and was the heaviest python captured at the time in Florida, officials said.