Burmese pythons are becoming an ever-increasing problem for Florida, but the residents of Port St. Lucie had little idea that they would encounter one of these large snakes in their own backyard. According to WPTV, officers from the Port St. Lucie Police Department captured a 12-foot, 120-pound python last Friday after it wandered into an empty lot. Residents told the police that it had been there for some time, eating any cat unlucky enough to cross its path.
“We do know that there’s a lot of missing cats in that neighboorhod,” said Sergeant John Holman, who captured the snake. “Probably possums and raccoons [as well].”
Holman was the first officer to respond to the complaints and found the large snake hiding in the vegetation surrounding the vacant lot. Even coiled up, Burmese pythons are intimating creatures and are among the five largest snakes in the world, generally just behind the green anaconda. Although Holman says he does have some experience handling large snakes, this is one encounter where he wanted backup.
“Once I saw the size of it, I called for a few more officers,” Holman told WPBF. “I’m not going to do that by myself.”
The snake was captured and transported to a caretaker for the time being while the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decides what to do with it. Burmese pythons are considered an invasive species in Florida, and wildlife officials are struggling to contain a large, established population in the Everglades. The main threat from a python invasion comes from their appetites, and experts say that the snakes may be responsible for a decline in native species, especially ground-nesting birds and small mammals.
The Port St. Lucie snake however, seemed to have developed a taste for animals of a domestic variety. Holman says that the python was likely a pet itself, and released when it grew too big. It is currently illegal to own a python in Florida without a special permit and federal laws prohibit the transport of the species across state lines.
You can see officers pose with the captured snake—now behaving quite tame—below.
File image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service