OCHOPEE, Fla. - How many guys does it take to wrangle Florida's second-heaviest Burmese python? Five, apparently.
Mike Elfenbein was one of those guys who experienced a "surreal" and "lucky" take-down at Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida over the weekend.
"I had her by the head. Her head was the size of a football," Elfenbein told FOX 35 News. "My son grabbed her by the tail. And the other three guys all piled on in the middle. And with all five of us sitting on top of her, she was still literally able to lift her body off the ground and keep moving.
"It was crazy, it was crazy."
Elfenbein, his son Cole, and three other guys they had just met were in the area just lookin' for pythons. The species of python they caught are not native to Florida and are considered invasive due to their impacts to native wildlife, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"We all came across this giant snake in the road at the exact same time. And it was a good thing we did because it literally took all five of us to get her under control," Elfenbein told FOX 35 News.
At first, however, the crew didn't realize what they were looking at. Elfenbein said it looked more like an alligator the way car headlights were shining on her, casting a shadow.
"It was surreal," he added. "I don't even think we recognized she was that big when we put hands on her."
And big she was, indeed.
This Burmese python measured 17 feet, 2 inches long, 23 inches in girth, and weighed 198 pounds after being checked in at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. That's the second-heaviest Burmese python captured in the Sunshine State.
Elfenbein said it was no surprise he was sore the next day.
"It took every bit of energy we had to do this," he said.
As far as what happens to the snake now, Elfenbein said he and his son are keeping the skull, which is currently being processed before being put in a display.
Elfenbein clarified that he's not an expert python hunter, but someone trying to help get this invasive species under control. And he's done it several times before, saying his personal best python capture was 10 feet, 4 inches.
"I'm not looking to compete with anybody. I'm not competing. I'm not in the Python Challenge. I'm not a contractor," Elfenbein said. "I'm just a guy trying to do something good. That's all."
Elfenbein, a long-time conservationist in Florida, wants to encourage others to do good, too.
If you come across a Burmese python, and you might not feel comfortable or experienced enough to trap it, there's a multitude of things you can do to help, he said.
"Do something, don't do nothing," he said. "Someone call FWC. If you're not comfortable, park your car on top of it. … Make every effort you can to ensure that if you don't have the ability or wherewithal or desire to catch one, that you do everything within your power to find someone who is willing to do so."
The FWC continues to manage this species by supporting research, enacting the Python Action Team, Python Patrol, and Florida Python Challenge. Click here for more information.