A 17-foot-7-inch Burmese python found in the Florida Everglades set a state record for both its size and the 87 eggs it was carrying, according to an official at the national park.
The 164.5-pound (74.6-kilogram) snake was found, tagged and released in March as a part of a program to study invasive species in the Everglades. Scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida's Gainesville campus recaptured the python in April and discovered the eggs during an examination Friday, said Linda Friar, public information officer for Everglades National Park.
"One of the important facts about this animal is its reproductive capability," said Skip Snow, a park wildlife biologist. "There are not many records of how many eggs a large female snake carries in the wild. This shows they're a really reproductive animal, which aids in their invasiveness."
A species is found to be invasive if it causes economic damage, environmental harm or threatens human health, according to the Agriculture Department. The Burmese python was deemed an injurious species this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The designation prohibits importation and interstate transportation of the animal without a permit.
Florida's invasive reptile and amphibian crisis is the world's worst, according to the statement. Burmese pythons are known to feed on large animals, including alligators and deer.
The snakes are indigenous to Southeast Asia and are believed to have entered the Everglades through both intentional and accidental pet releases, according to the statement. About 50 Burmese pythons have been removed from in and around Everglades National Park in 2012.
"This snake has adapted to this ecosystem and is reproducing," Friar said. Given the large area covered by the Everglades, chances of eradicating the species are not good: "There's no clear strategy."