When tourists spotted a Burmese python in the Florida Everglades, guide Tommy Owens immediately went after it, wrestling what turned out to be a snake over 10 feet long.
Owen, 26, and fellow tour guide on the Everglades Adventure Tours, Warren Wortman, then cut off the snake’s head.
Native to Asia, the Burmese python is a non-indigenous species in Florida. Many were originally bought as pets, and then released into the wild, when owners no longer wanted the animals or could no longer care for them. Out of captivity the snakes have bred and some reached gigantic proportions. One, which was over 15 feet long, was found with a whole, 76-pound deer in its belly.
The tour guides moved the boat 15 feet from the snake when Owen went to stalk it. When he grabbed it, it coiled itself around his body.
"I realized he was much bigger than I was," Owen said. "He was very strong, about three times the size of my arms."
Owen said his instincts took over and he decided he had to kill the snake while he had the chance. The python turned out to be much stronger than he anticipated. It shook loose from his grasp, but Owen was able to hold its neck out just enough for Wortman to cut off its head.
"It's not my job," Owen said of capturing the python, "but at the same time it's my home. I was protecting the environment."
Owens and Wortman handed the dead snake over to Big Cypress National Preserve so they can study its origins, eating habits, and where is had been.
Owen explained he was sorry to kill the animal, but "I have to get him out of there 'cause he's going to kill our native species."