Trappers catch 15-foot python in Everglades

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EVERGLADES, FL — Two snake trappers got their hands on a 15-foot python Saturday.

Nicholas Banos and trapping partner Leonardo Sanchez drove in their car keeping all eyes on the lookout, and moments later made their phenomenal find.

“I saw a little gloss and I saw a big square brown patch, and automatically I knew what it was,” Sanchez said of the python, which weighed in at 144 pounds.

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

As they wrestled for their catch, their struggle was just beginning.

“I started to try to pull it so it won’t go into the water, and the snake just straight turns around and beelines towards my face, and that’s when he (Sanchez) came in and he jumped from behind and grabbed it by the head, and he even got nipped a couple of times,” Banos said.

Minutes later, they were finally able to get their grasp and get the snake into a massive bag and throw it in the back of their van.

It was all part of the Python Challenge, a benefit to protect the Everglades.

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

Burmese pythons are an invasive species.

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

“Native animals – deer, raccoons, whatever it is, birds – they’re disappearing. And it’s all because of the python,” Sanchez said.

Snake hunter Donna Kalil agreed.

“They’re decimating the environment,” Kalil said. “I figured, hey, if I could get a couple it’d be a great adventure, and I’d be able to help the environment.”

But for Banos and Sanchez, it wasn’t all satisfying.

“We don’t hunt for sport,” Banos said. “We’re not hunting to kill. We hunt to remove. Catch and remove. 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 feeling of a little bit of heartache.”