By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - An 18-foot, 8-inch Burmese python set a record for the longest snake ever captured in South Florida, where the exotic species has taken up residence.
College student Jason Leon snared the female python in a rural area southeast of Miami earlier this month, when he saw part of it sticking out from brush along the roadside, said Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman for the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The python broke the previous record set in 2012 by a 17-foot, 7-inch snake caught by researchers studying the impact of the growing population of pythons on the Everglades National Park.
With the help of his friends, Leon wrestled and killed the snake with a knife, Segelson said. He then reported the find through Florida's "IveGot1" program, which connects callers to wildlife researchers.
The Burmese python is an invasive species in Florida. Native to the region from India to lower China, the species has been documented to grow as long as 26 feet and weigh 200 pounds.
Florida sponsored a python hunting competition in January to see whether annual hunts might put a dent in the local population, and to provide specimens for further research.
Theories on how the snakes got into the Everglades include dumping by pet owners and the destruction of a nearby exotic pet dealership during the 1992 Hurricane Andrew.
(Editing by David Adams and Leslie Gevirtz)