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Amateur hunters catch enormous 17-foot python near Florida Everglades

The three men joked about catching something large, but they never imagined running into a "monster" crossing the road.

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida college student, along with two new buddies, snagged what might be the biggest Burmese python catch by amateur hunters in Florida history. 

Joshua Laquis connected with Jake Waleri and Stephen Gauta of Glades Boys Python Adventures on Instagram after plans to catch pythons with his friend fell through.

After connecting on social media the day before, the three men met in person for the first time on Aug. 6 and set out to catch the invasive species in a pick-up truck. Laquis said they joked about catching something big but didn't expect to find a 17-foot, 10-inch "monster" crossing the road.

The 110-pound snake was found laying in the middle of U.S. Highway 41 headed into the Everglades region.

“It was literally on the road,” said Laquis, who was in complete disbelief by its sheer size. He told WKMG-TV, “We all screamed. We all hunted snakes before, but none of us have seen anything this size. …Something this big was unbelievable to see.”

Credit: Joshua Laquis
The 17-foot python stretched across the two tables.

Laquis said they had started the night by flashing lights into the bushes, hoping to see something pop out but ended up coming face-to-face with the giant. 

“We didn’t have high expectations to catch anything too big,” Laquis told the Miami Herald. “We were looking in the grass at the side of the road hoping to spot something when a monster slithered right in front of the truck.”

The Rollins College student, who is originally from Trinidad, said as they individually held the snake on their shoulders for pictures and they "could feel the power of it around their necks."

Credit: Joshua Laquis
The three men hold the 17-foot python in their pick-up truck.

Unfortunately, the three men are going to have to settle for bragging rights because they were a couple of days too early to join the 2022 Florida Python Challenge for a cash prize. 

Interested participants were able to register back in June, and now they are ready to start collecting the scaly friends for prizes. Participants have until Aug. 14 to catch the pythons. 

RELATED: Are you ready? 2022 Florida Python Challenge officially begins

The challenge allows the public to help engage head-on to help with the problem of the invasive species in the Sunshine State, according to the governor.

And participants aren't removing the pythons for nothing — there are rewards: The person who removes the most pythons will receive a prize of $2,500, while the individual who removes the longest python will get $1,500.

“The Everglades is one of the world’s most prized natural resources, and we have invested record funding for Everglades restoration projects, including record funding for removal of invasive Burmese pythons which wreak havoc on the ecosystem,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in a previous statement. 

“Because of this focus, we have removed record numbers of invasive pythons from the Everglades. I am proud of the progress we’ve made, and I look forward to seeing the results of this year’s Python Challenge.”

The FWC encourages people to remove and kill pythons from private lands whenever possible.

“The Florida Everglades is an iconic habitat in Florida and removing Burmese pythons from this ecosystem is critical to the survival of the species that live in this vast wild area,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto said in a previous statement. “Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, the FWC and our dedicated partners continue to have great success conserving our native wildlife and managing this invasive predator.”

Burmese pythons aren't native to Florida and are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem. The snakes usually eat birds, mammals and other reptiles.

For more information on Burmese pythons, visit MyFWC.com/Python.

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