Workers at Everglades National Park, Florida captured and killed a 16-foot-long Burmese python, who was found to have a whole adult deer in its stomach.
The Burmese python, one of the biggest ever found in South Florida, had recently swallowed a doe the size of a child.
An autopsy was conducted at Everglades National Park by Skip Snow, a python specialist who said the reptile had a girth of 44 inches (112 cm) with the 5st 6lb (35 kg) deer inside its stomach.
Skip Snow told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
“This is clearly an extreme event.
“It shows you they can eat huge things.
“The Burmese python – an ambush predator – would have staked out a known deer trail, seized the animal in its sharp teeth, crushed it by coiling around it and then eaten the corpse.”
It is the first time a snake has been caught so soon after eating a deer, allowing biologists to see just how large their prey can be.
According to Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the capture of the snake was crucial to help prevent the spread of pythons further north.
“It’s pretty clearly one of the biggest snakes we’ve seen,” Scott Hardin said.
“We haven’t gotten anything longer than 16ft in the wild in Florida.”
Specialists said the population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades has grown over the past several years, after being bought by people in the area as exotic pets.
According to state and federal wildlife officials, the dangerous snakes have been set loose by owners after growing too big, or escaped from enclosures destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
specialists also said the pythons primarily eat smaller mammals and birds, but larger specimens are happy to munch on alligators, deer and hogs.
The 16-foot-long python was discovered by workers from South Florida Water Management District, who were removing non-native plants from a tree island.
The world’s largest captive snake is a 25 feet, 22st (140 kg) python called Medusa, who lives in Kansas City and is capable of killing and consuming animals that weigh as much as a healthy adult.
In 2010, scientists from Denmark used computer technology to look inside the organs of a python after it had swallowed a whole rat.
The scientists noted that it took 132 hours for the snake to fully digest the rat, with the snake’s intestine expanding and its heart rate increasing to help it break down its substantial food.
According to researchers, pythons often fast for months and then eat enormous meals, and are able to consume up to 50% of their own bodyweight.
The pythons have in recent years been documented eating cockatoos, frogs and even other snakes.