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Killed 18-foot python is state record

4:45 PM, May 21, 2013   |    comments
University of Florida students line up next to the 18-foot python. (Photo courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
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(NBC News) -- Just call him Python Dundee.

A Miami man pulled an 18-foot Burmese python out of roadside brush and wrestled with it for 10 minutes before cutting its head off with a knife.

The 128-pound specimen turned out to be the biggest Burmese python ever captured in Florida, besting the previous record by more than a foot, wildlife officials said.

"I was pretty exhausted and I didn't want to get bit," Jason Leon, 23, said of the decapitation that ended his struggle with the massive constrictor.

For his trouble, Leon got thanks from the the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which considers Burmese pythons an invasive species that wreaks havoc on the state's ecosystem.

"I would think a snake of that size could kill a very large animal," said Carli Segelson, a commission spokeswoman. "It could kill a deer, so a person would be comparable in size to that."

Leon, a college student studying marine biology, said he was riding ATVs with friends in a rural area on May 11 when one of them spotted about three feet of snake sticking out of some brush.

Leon, who used to keep snakes, had never seen a python in the wild and decided to get up close and personal with this one. It wasn't until he yanked him out that he realized how big it was.

As he held it by the neck, the female wrapped around his leg once, then twice and then headed for his waist. 

He kept grappling with it until he became worried it might sink its razor-sharp teeth into him.

A friend handed him a nine-inch knife and he sunk it into the snake, he said.

Two days later, Leon called wildlife officials, who took the snake and confirmed it was a record-setter. 

He agreed to donate the skeleton but has been promised the skin, which he plans to tan and put on his living room wall.

Officials said they are grateful the python is no longer roaming the wild and that Leon was not hurt.

"Anytime people are dealing with wildlife, we recommend they use common sense," Segelson said. "If you're going to approach a Burmese python of this size, you should have an understanding of what it takes to euthanize it."


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