500 pounds of pure snake: Massive python mating ball snagged in Florida

Wildlife experts in Southwest Florida recently snagged 500 pounds of Burmese pythons - including one more than 16 feet long, after finding a large mating ball of the snakes not far from the city of Naples.

The Collier County catch came this month during National Invasive Species Awareness Week, according to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and marked what the Miami Herald called a reported record for the environmental advocacy organization that has worked for a decade to remove the invasive snakes from the region.

Conservancy wildlife biologist Ian Bartoszek with a large mating ball of pythons captured in southwest Florida in March 2024.
Conservancy wildlife biologist Ian Bartoszek with a large mating ball of pythons captured in southwest Florida in March 2024.

The group caught 11 pythons weighing a total of 500 pounds, according to its Facebook page.

“For 10 years, we’ve been catching and putting them (Burmese pythons) down humanely," conservatory wildlife spokesperson Ian Bartoszek wrote in the post. "You can’t put them in zoos and send them back to Southeast Asia. Invasive species management doesn’t end with rainbows and kittens. These are remarkable creatures, here through no fault of their own. They are impressive animals, good at what they do.”

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The snakes are non-native, invasive and cause ecological disturbance

The Sunshine State, the group said, is home to thousands of non-native species of plants and animals.

"When these introduced species reproduce in the wild and cause economic, social, or ecological disturbance, they reach invasive status," the group wrote.

Burmese pythons are invasive and destructive

The Burmese python's impact in South Florida is well documented − so much the state holds an annual hunt for the non-native species in that region.

There the snakes thrive and eat everything, but nothing often eats them leading the United States Geological Survey to don the pythons one of the most concerning invasive species in that region − especially Everglades National Park.

According to the federal agency, since 1997, the pythons have been the cause of drastic declines in raccoon, opossum and bobcat populations.

"The mammals that have declined most significantly have been regularly found in the stomachs of Burmese pythons removed from Everglades National Park and elsewhere in Florida," the science bureau posted on its webpage.

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Contributing: Julia Gomez

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on X @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Massive ball of invasive Burmese pythons found in Southwest Florida