Remember those urban legends about pet reptiles that were flushed and grew to be enormous? Looks like some of them might have been true.
According to the Naples Daily News, Florida forest rangers caught and killed a 15-foot, 3-inch python last week in the Picayune Strand State Forest.
Rangers first spotted the python a couple weeks ago, but it escaped into a culvert. They spotted it again last week, and this time, it didn't get away. One ranger, Jean Bernard Tarrete, grabbed it by the tail, circling around it and staying away from its head, while the other ranger, Wilbur Chaney, grabbed the head. The two killed the python with a rake usually used in controlled burns.
Not the most humane method of dispatching the snake, but like it or not, Florida pythons are becoming a big problem -- in every sense of the phrase.
The snake was just shy of the 16-foot record for pythons pulled from the wild in South Florida, and it confirms the spread of the Burmese python population, an nonnative, invasive species in Florida.
Growing over 20 feet long, pythons are typically released from captivity after they grow too big. In the Everglades, where the Burmese python population is at its worst, the snakes will compete with alligators in the food chain; the two species have even been photographed battling each other, a perfect illustration of the harm the python does to the Florida ecosystem.
The problem has gotten so severe that the importation of pythons, along with transportation of the animal across state lines, was banned by the Interior Department earlier this year.
And it's probably going to get worse. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the python's population is known to be breeding, and will probably sustain itself for another 10 years.