MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A Homestead man captured a 17.5-foot Burmese python while hunting in the Everglades in Miami-Dade County this week, authorities said.
Hunter Kyle Penniston caught the 120-pound female snake late Monday.
"I was just very amazed that I got that by myself," he told Local 10 News Thursday.
The capture was part of the South Florida Water Management District's Python Elimination Program. As part of the elimination program, state officials are working with hunters like Kyle Penniston to combat the pythons.
"It was a monster," Penniston said. "I knew it was a monster, but I didn't expect it to be 17.5 and I'm only 5'5."
Penniston said the catch happened Monday night. He said he was driving along a levee in the Everglades when he spotted the snake, stopped and grabbed it with his bare hands.
"I went to grab her and when I tried to pull her up to the levy, she tried to constrict my arms. And I tried to get to the top of the levy and I couldn't get to the top," he said.
Penniston, who was alone at the time, said he realized he was in trouble when the snake bit down on his hand while its body began to coil around his arm and legs.
I realized I was by myself, my gun was jammed and I didn't know what to do," Penniston said.
Penniston ultimately wrestled with the python until it was out of energy and then euthanized the snake.
"It was honestly an epic battle that I'll never forget for the rest of my life, because I almost did lose my life. But I'm blessed. I had fun with it. I'm ready for the next one," Penniston said.
Penniston has already eliminated more than 200 of the snakes, making him one of the program's most prolific hunters.
Officials said hunters in the program have only captured two other pythons that large. Burmese pythons are an invasive species that eat native mammals and endanger the Everglades ecosystem, state officials said.
Some scientists said efforts of sanctioned python hunters, who have eliminated hundreds of snakes over the last several years, are making a small dent in the population.
"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 Mike Kirkland, the project manager for the Python Elimination Program. "District staff and a dedicated group of hunters are working to help control this invasive species and protect native wildlife."