Wildlife officials are expanding search efforts to find and eradicate rock and Northern African pythons after a snake strangled a 60-pound Siberian husky in Miami-Dade County near the Florida Everglades.
The 10-foot-long, 36-pound snake killed the dog in a neighborhood near the Bird Drive Recharge Area, FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson said.
The python was found wrapped around the neck of the family pet in the backyard of 3003 Southwest 147th Place on the night of Aug. 30, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue report said.
It killed Duke, a husky that Michelle Rojas said had been part of her family for four years. But in a matter of minutes, the python coiled around him several times – despite efforts to pull them apart that included using gardening scissors.
“We couldn’t cut the snake,” Rojas said. She added: “He bent the metal.”
Burmese pythons are a well-known invasive species that have run amok in the Everglades over the past few decades, and a "Python Challenge" was held to hunt them earlier this year. But while they are an established population and are unlikely to be eradicated, there is still hope that Northern African pythons – which are considered by biologists to be possibly established – can be eliminated, Segelson said.
“Basically the FWC has been actively targeting, trying to eradicate this population, and we’ve been working with a variety of partners. And we’ll be increasing our efforts, including expanding the search areas,” Segelson said. “And we’ve already canvassed the neighborhoods nearby where the incident happened, so we’ve provided information to residents explaining the situation and providing safety tips to them.”
Northern African pythons are a newer menace in South Florida than the Burmese variety. But they have been documented in the Bird Drive Recharge Area since 2009, and they were first spotted locally in 2002, Segelson said.
With one exception, the snakes have been confined to south of Tamiami Trail, east of Krome Avenue, north of Bird Road, and west of Southwest 137th Avenue, she said.
A captain with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Venom One unit responded to the initial call Aug. 30 and captured the North African python, Segelson said. The Tampa Bay Times identified the off-duty captain as Charles “Big County” Seifert, a reality TV star from Animal Planet’s “Swamp Wars.”
Firefighters found that the python had two bite wounds on its neck, suggesting that it and the husky had fought, the Times reported.
"It's difficult to tell if the snake attacked the dog," Capt. Jeff Fobb of the Venom One unit told the Times. "A snake would've had trouble eating a dog that size, so it might've been a defensive move" after the dog attacked the snake, he said.
Regardless, he told the Times, “it’s a cause for concern.”
Segelson said a FWC biologist picked up the snake and euthanized it. The necropsy will be performed at the University of Florida-Fort Lauderdale.
She told the Times that the snake probably came from the wild population, and that state biologists have captured 27 Northern African pythons (including two juveniles) in the area since 2009. That indicates they’re breeding.
There are 26 species of pythons, but “rock pythons have an especially nasty reputation,” the Times reported. In their native habitat in sub-Saharan African, they eat antelopes, warthogs, herons and other animals, the newspaper reported.
Segelson said she knew of one other attack by a Northern African python on a dog in the same area. That happened last October.
The public can report sightings of the Northern African python to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 1-888-IveGot1, online at IVEGOT1.org, or through the smartphone app IVEGOT1.
“Wild pythons generally do not attack humans unprovoked, and attacks on domestic pets form pythons are very rare,” Segelson said. “However, as is the case with any situation, adults should supervise small children and pets when outside.”
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