Contestants at this weekend’s annual Python Challenge might have some stiff competition if these snake hunters enter the contest.
Recently, the novice hunters captured an 18-foot Burmese python in South Florida. The serpent, which weighed more than 100 pounds, was caught by Florida locals Jake Waleri, Joshua Laquis, and Stephen Gauta.
Experts believe the snake is one of the biggest pythons ever caught in the sunshine state. However, the serpent met its unfortunate demise when the boys came across the python in the middle of the road.
“I look up and I see something blocking the entire road. It takes me a second, and I just see a head move, and I just start screaming,” Waleri said.
When the trio of snake slayers went out into the darkness to hunt for snakes on Wednesday, they didn’t expect one to fall into their laps while driving.
“We didn’t expect to come across anything this big,” Waleri said. “We were sweating and fighting this thing for a good five to 10 minutes,” Gauta added.
When it was all said and done, the massive python measured 17 feet and 10 inches long and weighed 104 pounds.
College students go after pythons ‘to make sure native wildlife has a chance’
“When I saw this thing, and I saw its tail and its head were almost touching the opposite white lines of the road, I was shocked. I was like, ‘This could be a record breaker.’ It’s not, but it’s petty close,” Waleri said.
“The most crazy part to me: This, well, we think this snake was spotted three nights before by another guy. So, for the entire night, what we talked about was, ‘Imagine we catch that one snake,'” Laquis said.
“To go out there and remove some of these invasive species to make sure your native wildlife has a chance, it feels really good,” Gauta said.
Waleri and Gauta are home from college for the summer and like to spend their time off hunting pythons, which are the state’s most detrimental and invasive species to the environment.
“These pythons don’t have a lot of natural predators, so it’s up to us to be those natural predators, take them out of the ‘glades before they get this big and can consume everything. This thing must have been really destructive over the last two decades,” said Waleri.
The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates that the Everglades National Park is home to over a million pythons.
In addition, Friday marks the kick-off of the 2022 Florida Python Challenge. The annual event encourages snake hunters from all over the country, from amateur to expert, to try their hand at hunting pythons in the Everglades.
Last year, more than 600 people from 25 states signed up and caught 223 Burmese pythons.