Jason Leon is no ordinary man.
Leon is a python hunter in south Florida who recently killed a 17-foot, 1-inch Burmese python, coming in at about 132 pounds. The snake was the largest to be captured so far in the state’s Python Elimination Program, an effort to remove the invasive species from the area.
Leon joked that he and his partner were “going to find a 20-footer” later that night.
“That snake could pretty much kill any full-grown man. If that snake was alive right now, it would probably take like three of us to be able to control that snake,” he later explained.
“If you see a snake this big, I don’t think you should jump on it, at least if you don’t have somebody else with you,” he warned.
WTSP reported that the previous record was held by famed python hunter Dusty “Wildman” Crum, who brought in a 16-foot, 11-inch python that weighed 122 pounds in November. With that catch, Crum had broken his own record by an inch.
According to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board, the Python Elimination Program compensates hunters like Leon and Crum for killing the “destructive” animals, which are now classified as an apex predator in the state.
The invasive Burmese python, which breeds and multiplies quickly and has no natural predator in the Everglades ecosystem, has decimated native populations of wildlife. The more of these snakes that can be eliminated, especially females and their eggs, the better chance future generations of native wildlife will have to thrive in the Everglades ecosystem that Floridians have invested billions of dollars to restore.
Mike Kirkland, a SFWMD scientist and the project manager for the Python Elimination Program, praised it for being “enormously effective in killing this relentless predator to help preserve native Everglades wildlife.”
But even if one thinks they have what it takes to be a python hunter, the program chooses only 25 hunters each year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story originally that the snake was killed at the Big Cypress National Preserve. SFWMD later clarified that the snake was found in the Everglades.