EVERGLADES, Fla. - Two South Florida men have quite a story to tell after what they encountered in the Everglades on Saturday -- a massive, 15-foot python.
"The first day of the challenge, we caught the biggest snake," snake trapper Nicholas Banos told WSVN.
Banos and trapping partner Leonardo Sanchez were driving when they spotted the 144-pound snake.
"I saw a little gloss, and I saw a big square brown patch and automatically, I knew what it was," Sanchez said.
"He goes, ‘Python, python,’” Banos said. “(The) second I get out of the car and I look over it's this big python stretched there where the trees meet the water. And when we jumped at it, he goes and grabs it by the tail, the second, he starts to grab it, the snake starts to bee line into the trees, so he tells me, 'Go for the head, go for the head.'"
"I'm trying to get into the trees because it's all over the place."
As they wrestled for their catch, their struggle was just beginning.
“I started to try to pull it so it won't go into the water, and the snake just straight turns around and bee-lines towards my face,” Banos said. “And that's when he came in and he jumped from behind and grabbed it by the head and he even got nipped a couple times."
Minutes later, they were finally able to get the snake into a massive bag and throw it in the back of their van.
It's all part of the Python Challenge to help protect the Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District selects and commissions 25 people to kill Burmese pythons over a 60-day period. The pythons are an invasive species that eat native wildlife.
The goal of the challenge is to get rid of as many pythons as they can.
"They're decimating the environment,” snake hunter Donna Kalil said. “I figured hey, if I could get a couple, it'd be a great adventure, and I'd be able to help the environment."
The effort wasn’t all satisfying for Banos and Sanchez.
"We don't hunt for sport,” Banos said. “We're not hunting to kill. We hunt to remove -- catch and remove. But having to kill it was a little rough for us. We've never really had to do that before. So it was satisfying, but it was also a feeling of -- a little bit of heartbreak."