Eric Bramblet and his girlfriend Kerry Sill are python hunters - and they caught a huge one over the weekend in Big Cypress National Preserve measuring over 16 feet long. 16 feet and 3 inches, to be exact.
"As you can see, this thing's huge," Bramblet laughed.
Bramblet and Sill are among 25 hunters in a Burmese python elimination program with the South Florida Water Management District, which has brought in 655 of the invasive snakes since the program began in March. The biggest so far was 16 feet and eleven inches long, weighing 144 pounds. Bramblet's and Sill's weighed in Monday at 143 pounds.
"One pound shy of the record," Bramblet said. "It feels great. It's still the biggest snake I've ever caught."
"The first time we went and found one, I just jumped out and jumped on top of it, and put it in the bag," he added. "And afterwards I said to (Sill) 'what are we doing?'"
But he said that he feels a duty to remove as many pythons as they can, because of the damage they're doing to the native wildlife.
"These things are killing all the animals out there," Bramblet said. "Everything from raccoons, rabbits and squirrels, to alligators and deer. It's an issue."
Their 16-foot python, which they euthanized, is a female that can carry dozens of eggs.
He said the pythons' camouflaged skin helps them blend in with their surroundings.
"It's almost like a needle-in-the-haystack situation," Bramblet said. "We're out there with flashlights, looking up and down the levees."
He said he didn't realize how big it was until they had to go after it in the swamp.
"We were in the water for about 20, 25 minutes fighting with her," he said. "It's much stronger than us. It's a little dangerous, but it's fun."
The South Florida Water Management District estimates that about 9,000 pounds worth of Burmese pythons have been removed from the wild between Broward, Miami-Dade, and Collier Counties.
SFWMD pays participants in the python elimination program $8.10 per hour for up to 8 hours each day while actively searching for pythons on SFWMD lands. For eliminated pythons, SFWMD pays $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet, plus an extra $25 for every foot over 4 feet. So a 16-foot python can net a hunter $350.