A 17-foot female python full of eggs was caught and killed last week in Big Cypress National Preserve, marking a record for the yawning preserve in southwest Florida.

The python, an invasive species devouring native animals in the Everglades, weighed 140 pounds and had 73 developing eggs.

It was caught by U.S. Geological Survey researchers using radio transmitters on male snakes to find females, said Rita Garcia, public information officer for Big Cypress.

"It's significant because it's a very large snake," Garcia said. "It's also significant because the snakes aren't just being euthanized, researchers are trying to get data and more information on them so we know how many there are out there, how they are using the landscape and what their impact is on wildlife."

So-called "Judas snakes" that are fitted with radio transmitters have been used for more than a decade by different agencies to track the invasive serpents in South Florida.

Garcia said the transmitters are monitored daily and if a snake seems to be staying in one area for a prolonged period, it could be because there is a female nearby.

"It's not a guarantee because the snake could be dead, but it is an indicator," Garcia said.

No non-government snake hunters operate in Big Cypress, such as those contracted with the South Florida Water Management District and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

An untold number of pythons live in Florida's fragile Everglades. The water district's program just caught it's 2000th python in the two  years since it was launched.

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Garcia said while pythons get most of the attention as far as invasive species go, there are other non-native flora and fauna hurting the environment.

"There is a huge problem with melaleuca trees and water hyacinth," she said. "Don't just focus on the pythons and don't stop coming to the preserve. These are your lands, this is your national heritage."

Kmiller@pbpost.com

@KmillerWeather

This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.