Kyle Penniston, an experienced python hunter and major contributor to Florida’s Python Elimination Program, outdid himself Monday night when he captured a record 17-foot, 5-inch python on his own.
The female Burmese python was the third over 17 feet caught in the program, but this one was the biggest. It weighed 120 pounds, according to the South Florida Water Management District’s announcement.
“So this snake just showed me you really can do anything,” Penniston of Homestead, Fla., wrote on Facebook , describing the night he nabbed the massive python. “I just caught this python alone.
“I was riding along the levee and saw this massive girl in the water. Jumped out and grabbed her by the head and realized how big she truly was. She started wrapping me while I tried getting her up the levee. She ended up making me loose my grip and as soon as I knew it she had my hand in her mouth. I grabbed my pistol off my side, loaded one in the chamber and it jammed. I kept fighting till we were both dead of energy. I finally was able to get her up the levee and l euthanized her as it’s required by our program.”
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It was the 235th python Penniston has removed from the wild in the program designed to protect the Everglades from pythons and limit the negative impacts on its ecosystem. Pythons, an invasive species, have become the apex predator of the Everglades.
The removal program gives python hunters cash incentives for catching pythons. The water district pays $50 per python up to 4 feet and an additional $25 for each foot over that. So Penniston’s python was worth $375.
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Penniston is second to only Miami native Brian Hargrove in the number of pythons caught in the program. Hargrove has captured 257 pythons. The entire program has eliminated 1,859 pythons stretching a combined length of more than two miles and collectively weighing 11 tons.
“Just six months after eliminating the first 1,000 pythons from District lands, this program is about to double that total because of a true team effort,” said SFWMD scientist Mike Kirkland, project manager for the Python Elimination Program. “With the Governing Board’s unwavering support, District staff and a dedicated group of hunters are working to help control this invasive species and protect native wildlife.”
Photos provided by Kyle Penniston and the South Florida Water Management District.