Record-breaking python catchers explain why trapping invasive snakes is critical to Florida’s ecosystems

2 men caught nearly 19-foot-long Burmese python

It’s a story that made headlines for its jaw dropping stats. A nearly 19-foot-long Burmese python weighing 104 pounds is caught in the Florida Everglades by two men.

Once the staggering numbers sink in, the next thing you likely think about is who in the world would or could wrestle this monster into submission?

News 6 Anchors Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden spoke with Ryan Ashburn and Kevin “Snakeaholic” Pavlidis on this week’s edition of Florida’s Fourth Estate podcast about their record-breaking catch.

Ashburn is a python contractor for the South Florida Water Management District and Pavlidis is an alligator wrestler at Everglades Holiday Park and a python contractor with Florida Fish and Wildlife.

We spoke to this duo of python wranglers not long after the catch about what it was like to find a Burmese python this size in the Everglades.

Pavlidis says the moment he saw the size of the snake’s head he knew this was going to be one for the record books.

Fear wasn’t really a factor for the men, but they both say they have a healthy respect for what these creatures can do if you aren’t careful.

Both have been bitten numerous times so they’ve learned how to safely escape the strong jaws and razor sharp teeth of the Burmese python.

Pavlidis says the key to getting bitten is to relax.  He say the pythons have curved teeth so yanking it out will only do more damage.

Pavlidis explains what to do if you ever find yourself with a Burmese python clamped down on any part of your body. He says, “If you hold your ground it will come back out. Now it’s just a puncture hole and it’s really not that bad.”

Ashburn says the snakes are just trying to get away.

While many will hunt these invasive snakes for the thrill of the chase, Ashburn and Pavlidis say there is so much more at stake than bragging rights.  They want to protect the animals who call the Everglades home.  Sadly, the two men say we are likely never going to get rid of this invasive snake so the best they can do is try to capture as many as they can.

The big problem is with the amount of eggs just one of these snakes can carry.

Pavlidis says, “When they have babies, they have a ton of babies because they anticipate out of that huge group of animals maybe one or two will make it to adulthood.”

He has caught some carrying as many as 70 eggs.  The record-breaking behemoth they recently captured could potentially carry up to 120 eggs.

If you want to hear more from Ashburn and Pavlidis about what it takes to handle these snakes be sure to listen to the full episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

Florida’s Fourth Estate looks at everything from swampy politics to a fragile environment and even the crazy headlines that make Florida the craziest state in the Union.

Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin use decades of experience as journalists to dissect the headlines that impact Florida. Each week they have a guest host who helps give an irreverent look at the issues impacting the Sunshine State. Big influencers, like Attorney John Morgan, renowned Florida journalists and the scientists protecting Florida’s ecosystem, can often be found as guests.

Look for new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Sticher or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to the full episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate on iTunes here or on Sticher here.

About the Authors:

Tiffany produces the 4:30 p.m. newscast and has been with News 6 since January 2019. She also produces Florida's Fourth Estate podcast. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in radio/TV. Tiffany has lived in Central Florida since 2004 and has covered the Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman trials and several hurricanes.

Emmy Award-winning anchor Matt Austin joined the News 6 team in June 2011 and has been the evening news co-anchor since December 2013.