Marco Island, FL - (NBC) - It took four grown men to capture an 11-foot Burmese python spotted Thursday in Florida's Collier County.
"She was very strong, we almost got pulled in the water a couple of times," said Rookery Bay Biologist Jeff Carter.
The female python was found in an area of the Rookery Bay Reserve on the grounds of the Marco Island Airport and wildlife officials say she wasn't alone.
Two smaller male snakes, estimated to be three to four feet long, were also spotted but not captured.
Carter says the males were found in a "breeding ball" position, a sign the pythons were mating.
The reproduction has Southwest Florida wildlife officials concerned.
"For that natural dynamic to be occurring means that they're either already established in this area or well on their way," said Carter.
Burmese pythons are exotic and invasive, not only to Southwest Florida but the United States as well, and their population continues to grow.
"The truth of the matter is that a snake of that size could kill you or me," said Carter.
The pythons are not only a threat to humans.
They're disturbing the ecosystem in the everglades where the alligator, once the top predator, is now the prey.
"It's like a pebble in a pond. It throws the whole natural balance of that food chain out of whack," said Carter.
The python was taken to a research center in Miami-Dade County where it will be euthanized.
To control the growing python population, the state is allowing a python hunting season, which opens today.