It sounds like something out of a movie, but if you didn't think the Sunshine State's python problem could get any worse, it's time to prepare for a new species that might be the most dangerous snake in the world and could be reproducing just outside Magic City.
Described as ill-tempered and vicious, the African Rock python is more feared than Burmese pythons and their introduction into the Florida habitat is devastating, according to a new article in National Geographic.
The rock pythons are "so mean, they come out of the egg striking," Kenneth Krysko, senior herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville told the magazine. "This is just one vicious animal."
So far officials have found six of the nasty reptiles in Florida since 2002, in the same square mile in a suburban area west of Miami. Like the non-native Burmese pythons, officials believe the snakes were released into the wild by owners.
Of the six found, one was a female and two were hatchlings, meaning the rock python may be here to stay. They grow to about 20-feet long, and will consume anything in their path, including humans.
Non-poisonous, the pythons encircle their victims and squeeze the life out of them, just like the Burmese species, as a Central Florida family tragically learned when their two-year-old daughter was strangled by a python earlier this summer.
And as if Nat Geo's findings weren't scary enough, the magazine also says that there's a possibility that the Burmese and rock pythons could mate and create a more powerful "supersnake."
"We can't rule out the possibility that the introduction of genes from a different species might do something that would allow [the rock pythons] to be even more effective at persisting in Florida and perhaps expanding," wildlife biologist Robert Reed told the magazine.
As of last week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had reported that 18 Burmese pythons had been caught and killed under their new hunting program. There may be as many as 150,000 Burmese pythons living throughout Florida.
Officials are hoping they can eradicate the African rock pythons before they spread like the Burmese.
The arrival of the Burmese python in the state "was the biggest, [most] devastating problem that Florida ever could have imagined," Krysko said. "Now we have a worse one."