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Comments for: non-native
quasi Report This Comment
Date: July 31, 2009 08:03PM

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY - The staff at the Okeechobee Veterinary Hospital routinely handles large animals. Along with household pets, they treat hogs, horses, cows and ornery bulls.

But the massive critter that showed up Thursday stunned everyone. It turned out to be one of the biggest Burmese pythons found yet, roaming free in Florida.

The constrictor stretched 17 feet, 2 inches and measured 26 inches around at its thickest point. It weighed in at a staggering 207 pounds -- four pounds more than the Miami Dolphins' brawny No. 1 draft pick, Vontae Davis.

"It was a complete shock,'' said Patty Harvey, a technician at the hospital, which is just north of Lake Okeechobee. "We see huge gators all the time being in Okeechobee but you would never expect to see a snake this size.''

Florida wildlife managers pointed to the find as the latest, and largest, evidence that the exotic snake, which has settled into the Everglades, is spreading across the state.

"The capture of this large python shows us how well these snakes can thrive in the wild and create a dangerous situation after illegal release or escape,'' said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "It also illustrates why the FWC is partnering with other agencies to implement python control measures in South Florida.''

Two weeks ago, the FWC began an experimental permit program that allows reptile experts to euthanize Burmese pythons on state-managed lands around the Everglades, where the population is now estimated to number in the tens of thousands.

But the python patrol didn't bag the giant snake that slithered onto the animal hospital's 20-acre grounds.

It was spotted Thursday afternoon by Corey Surls, 11, whose uncle, veterinarian Jim Harvey, owns the hospital.

The boy spends a lot of time on the grounds and overheard construction workers, who are building an addition to the hospital, talk about a large snake they'd seen in a ditch, Patty Harvey said. "He runs over there and looks into the ditch and, lo and behold.''

Surls told WPBF in West Palm Beach that he was scared at first but, pointing to a cousin who went along, said, "I was on the other side of the fence, so I knew it was going to get him first.''

He alerted his uncle. The veterinarian killed the snake with head shots from a .22 caliber rifle, Patty Harvey said. Though it's illegal to shoot them in state wildlife management areas or federal lands, the FWC says pythons can be legally shot on private property if local laws allow gun use.

Afterward, the staff, still in hospital attire, posed for what Patty Harvey called a "once-in-a-lifetime'' photo. It took eight of them to hold the snake.

"I am petrified of snakes,'' she said. "It was still moving. I guess their muscles move for awhile even after they're dead.''

As one of the largest snakes in the world, sometimes topping 20 feet, scientists consider Burmese python a serious threat to native species. Everything from deer hooves to endangered rats have been pulled from their bellies.

But nothing discernible was found in this python's stomach, and Harvey said none of the animals on the hospital's sprawling grounds were missing.

Wildlife officers scanned for a microship, required for pets under state law since 2007, but found nothing.

Patty Harvey said the meat was donated to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation facility, a fitting turn of the table that will let natives fatten up on the invader.

The future of the skin remains uncertain, though Harvey admitted female staffers were joking it would make a lot of nice purses
Onyma Report This Comment
Date: July 31, 2009 08:10PM

Now that's a snake.

"...and measured 26 inches around at its thickest point"

For anyone who used to watch wrestlin' back in the 80's... you'll remember Hulk Hogan and his "24 inch pythons, baby!". Damn, I had no idea.
quasi Report This Comment
Date: August 01, 2009 04:45PM