2 hunters catch 15-foot python during Everglades’ Python Challenge

EVERGLADES, Fla. (WSVN) — Two hunters searching for pythons in the Everglades came across a 15-foot snake.

The massive snake put up a fight, but the two snake trappers were able to get their hands on that 15-foot python, Saturday.

“The first day of the challenge, we caught the biggest snake,” said hunter Nicholas Banos.

Banos and his trapping partner, Leonardo Sanchez, were driving in the car as they kept their eyes on the lookout for snakes during the Everglades’ Python Challenge.

That’s when they spotted the Burmese python. “I saw a little gloss, and I saw a big square brown patch, and automatically, I knew what it was,” Sanchez said.

Banos described the beginning of the madness. “He goes, ‘Python, python!’ Second, I get out of the car, it’s this big python stretched there where the trees meet the water,” Banos said, “and when we jumped at it, he goes and grabs it by the tail. The second he grabs it by the tail, the snake starts to bee-line into the trees, so he tells me, ‘Go for the head, go for the head!’ I’m trying to get into the trees because it’s all over the place.”

As the snake tried to get away, these hunters knew they weren’t going to back down even if it meant getting bit. “I tried pulling it, so it wouldn’t go into the water, and the snake just straight bee lined towards my face,” Banos said. “And that’s when he jumped in, and he jumped from behind, and he grabbed it by the head. He even got nipped a couple times.”

Minutes later, they were finally able to get their grasp and get it in a massive bag.

The efforts are all part of the python challenge, which is geared toward protecting the Everglades from invasive species.

Twenty-five people were selected and commissioned by the South Florida Water Management District to kill the Burmese pythons over a 60-day period.

“Native animals, deer, raccoons. Whatever it is. Birds. They’re disappearing. They’re disappearing, and it’s because of the python,” Sanchez said.

The goal of the challenge is to get rid of as many pythons as they can.

Last week, 7News spoke with hunter Donna Kalil who is also taking part in the challenge.

“They’re decimating the environment, so I figured, ‘Hey, if I can get a couple, it’d be a great adventure, and I’d be able to help the environment,'” she said.

For Sanchez and Banos, the hunt isn’t all about what’s satisfying. “We don’t hunt for sport. We’re not hunting to kill. We hunt to remove. Catch and remove,” Banos said, “but having to kill it was a little rough. For us, we’ve never really had to do that before, so it was satisfying, but it was also a little bit of heartbreak.”

The python ended up weighing in at 144 pounds.

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