A nearly 18-foot python was caught in Florida. Hours later, a second one was captured.
Monday was two-for-one day for python surveyors in Southwest Florida.
Hours after the Naples Daily News published a story about a member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Python Action team catching the second-largest python in the program's history, another team member brought in an equally large snake.
Team member George Perkins, of Lighthouse Point, pulled into FWC's Davie station with a 17 foot 9 inch Burmese python weighing in at 121 pounds. While Perkins's snake was exactly the same length as the one Kevin Reich brought in hours earlier, Perkins's was "quite a bit wider," according to an FWC Facebook post.
Perkins said he has been with the Python Action team since March and this was his seventh haul. Prior to this catch, he remembers telling another member of the program, "I just want to break 10 feet." He did, and then some.
Perkins, who has hunted other game in the Everglades for 30 years, pulled the invasive snake from the Big Cypress National Preserve.He said he has caught snakes in many different places, but Big Cypress is his favorite place to survey, he said.
Perkins said spotting a python can be difficult.
"I can't tell you how many times we stopped to look at a curved stick or a tire," he said.
Pythons have excellent camouflage, and the team members have to be vigilant to watch out for something that "sticks out as being wrong," Perkins said.
Bright lights help. A python's skin is highly reflective, he said, and groups of team members will sometimes survey areas in pickups with an array of bright lights.
"It's better with more eyes," Perkins said.
The nearly 18-footer he recently captured was "periscoping," or holding its head up and looking around.
He stopped his vehicle, reversed back to where he spotted it and lost sight of the snake.Once he stepped out and started looking around again, he said he saw one little twig move.
"Oh my goodness, it's right there," he said. The snake was only about 3 feet away from him and nearly impossible to see, that's how difficultpythons can be to spot.
Once a surveyor has eyes on the snake, they secure the head first to avoid being bit.
"The snake grabs things with its head and the first few feet (of its body)," Perkins said. "If you can control the head and first few feet, everything else falls in line."
The surveyor and snake sometimes have to wrestle for about 20 minutes before the invasive python tires.
During warmer months, Perkins will go out at dusk and try to stay out until 5 or 6 a.m., he said. During cooler months, he'll sometimes head out during daylight hours.
"More time on the road, more snakes in the bag," he said.
FWC's Facebook post went on to say that Python Action team members have removed 147 pythons so far in August.
The Python Action team members scour specific areas for the invasive species and bring their catches to the FWC drop-off locations, according to the organization's website.
FWC pays team members hourly rates as well as additional payments of "$50 for non-native constrictors measuring up to four feet, and an extra $20 for every foot measured above four feet."
The commission is seeking applications on its website.
Karl Schneider is an environment reporter at Naples Daily News. Follow him on Twitter: @karlstartswithk