Wrestling a Burmese python wasn't exactly what 23-year-old Jason Leon planned when he visited the Everglades with his buddies last week. He was riding ATVs near Florida City when they saw a sight they'll never forget.
"We were riding and I saw something poking out on the side of the road. At first I didn't know what it was," said Veronica Larios, who accompanied Leon to the Everglades.
"I've hunted and fished all over and seen plenty of reptiles and alligators. I've never seen something that big," said Blake Jordan, who went along for the ride.
In the video, recorded by Jordan, you can see Leon handling the snake, grabbing it by it's neck. Larios, a woman with a petite frame jumps in, handing Leon a knife and helping him move the snake's body as it tried to coil around her friend.
"For about 10 minutes, he was wrapping around my legs, around my arms. I was switching arms, and finally. We finally pulled him apart, stretched him out, and took a knife and cut his head."
Leon has handled snakes before. He owned two as pets. Though he's tried, he's never hunted the invasive species successfully.
"I knew that it was a big snake and I've never seen it in the wild. I knew it didn't belong there. I knew they had to be removed so I grabbed it."
He never imagined his catch would be record-breaking big. After contacting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, Leon says wildlife authorities confirmed the snake he caught is the largest on record. He received an email congratulating him on his catch. Leon says the snake is 18 feet by 8 inches long. That's more than three times his height. The previous record-holder is a snake that measured in at 17 feet and 7 inches.
He will get to keep the snake skin and skull, trophies of his hunt. He also gets bragging rights. Leon says he's particularly proud of Larios.
"Like 90 percent of my guy friends would have stood back and said, 'Nuh-uh! Not doing it,'" Leon says.
Python hunting should be left to the pros. Leon himself says the lieutenant with Miami Fire Rescue's Venom One told him what he did was risky.
"Not a really smart idea at all to do it. The snake being so big, he said I should have had at least 4 or 5 other males there, because the strength of the snake," Leon says.
No one was injured. Leon says the snake is currently at the University of Florida. A necropsy will be performed so that researchers can learn more about the invasive species.