Jean Bernard Tarrete had the python by the tail, walking in circles to keep a step ahead of the huge snake’s attacking head.
At 15 feet, 3 inches, the nonnative invasive snake Tarrete and co-worker Wilbur Chaney caught and killed along the Miller canal at Lynch Boulevard in the Picayune Strand State Forest last week was just inches short of the 16-foot record for a python pulled out of the wilds of South Florida.
Its discovery solidifies the python presence in Southwest Florida, where biologists are still struggling to get a handle on the spread of the python population from its core in Everglades National Park.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to conduct a necropsy on the snake to determine its reproductive capacity and to find out what it might have been eating, Conservation Commission wildlife biologist Jennifer Ketterlin Eckles said.
She said wildlife agencies lack python data in Southwest Florida compared to data in the national park, and snakes the size of last week’s find don’t come around too often.
“It is pretty rare,” she said,
When word reached the Florida Forest Service about the python at the spot in the southern end of the state forest, rangers Tarrete and Chaney decided to see if they could find it.