Anthony Colarossi. Sentinel Staff Writer
10:14 PM CDT, July22,2009
Copyright 2009 Orlando Sentinel
Central Floridians have Burmese pythons on the brain.
Some suspect the giant constrictors are preying on pets. And many learned of a 12-foot-plus python captured in south Orange County's Cypress Creek community last week. All this comes as state wildlife officials organized a plan to capture and euthanize the pythons in South Florida and prosecutors try to determine whether charges should be filed against a Sumter County man whose pet Burmese is suspected of killing a 2-year-old girl early this month.
But folks should know a few facts about dealing with these snakes.
First, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say they have no indication that thousands of the nuisance snakes have migrated north from the Everglades, where tens of thousands of pythons are thought to be thriving.
Snakes spotted locally are likely to be pets dumped by owners who can no longer handle the hungry predators. Or ones who have heard all the negative publicity and decided the snakes are passe, experts say.
On the rare occasion that a homeowner does spot a Burmese python, there are a few options, wildlife officials say.
"They may euthanize it in any way they want, as long as it's legal under local ordinances," wildlife spokesperson Pat Behnke said. "They could use a club and hit it on the head. They could use a machete."
But none of that is meant to say that state wildlife officials recommend exercising the right to dispatch the animal on your own.
"We're not encouraging people to go out and do it, but they have a right to do it, if legal," Behnke said. Another way to handle the encounter would be to call the Wildlife Alert Hotline -- 1-888-404-3922 -- and explain your situation.
Behnke said the officials will make decisions case by case. The commission could send out someone to deal with the snake if it is especially large or stuck in a spot that presents a danger.
If that threat does not exist, officials can help find nuisance-wildlife trappers licensed to handle state-designated "reptiles of concern."
Burmese pythons that are legitimate pets should be embedded with microchips, but Behnke said a python found in someone's backyard in Orlando or Sanford was more likely dumped by an irresponsible owner who didn't bother to get a $100 annual license for the snake.
Another resource for nervous Burmese python spotters is Howard Riley, director of Snakes Alive -- 407-591-2050.
His team of volunteers can usually help with snake concerns quickly. They handled the south Orange case last week. And they are usually cheaper than a trapper.
Anthony Colarossi can be reached at 352-742-5934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.