|Published:||Sep 11, 2013 4:09 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 11, 2013 4:09 PM EDT|
MIAMI (AP) - There's another kind of python hunt happening in South Florida, where a 10-foot-long snake killed a Siberian husky in its backyard.
State and local authorities are canvassing the suburban neighborhood on the edge of the Everglades in western Miami-Dade County, hoping to find more northern African pythons and distributing flyers to help residents distinguish the snakes from Burmese pythons.
Also known as rock pythons, northern African pythons in Florida have mostly been contained to the area where they were first spotted in 2002. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hopes they still have a chance to wipe out the population before it can take hold like the Burmese python, an invasive species that has been so destructive to native mammal populations in the Everglades that the state sanctioned a public hunt for them earlier this year.
One of the pythons strangled a 60-pound husky Aug. 30 as the dog's horrified owners watched. The family called 911, but the dog died by the time help arrived.
"The snake was wrapped around the dog's head, neck and torso," said Capt. Jeff Fob of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Venom One unit, which responds to snake-related emergencies.
The 10-foot-long, 38-pound snake was captured and given to state wildlife officials, who euthanized it.
The snake had puncture wounds from where the dog bit it, but it was not known whether the snake saw the dog as prey or if the dog somehow provoked the reptile, Fobb said.
"It was a healthy dog, a dog that we consider capable of defending itself. It just maybe bit off more than it could chew when it got too near the snake," he said.
It's the fourth rock python removed from the area this year, Fobb said.
Rock pythons are far outnumbered by Burmese pythons, but they tend to be a little meaner, Fobb said.
"They might bite a little more. I would say their disposition is a little worse than the Burmese python," he said.
More than 25 rock pythons have been removed from the area since 2009, but it's difficult to estimate how large the population might be, said conservation commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson.
"They're elusive and secretive," she said. "We kind of learned that from the (state-sponsored) 'Python Challenge,' that they're not easily found."
Though estimates for Florida's Burmese python population varies from 10,000 to 100,000 snakes, just 68 were found during the month-long hunt.
Florida prohibits the sale of Burmese and rock pythons for use as pets. Federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of both species.
Both snakes can grow to impressive lengths and neither has natural predators in Florida. Each species has a splotchy, irregular pattern to its scales, though rock pythons are darker in color.
The conservation commission encourages to report sightings of northern African pythons and other exotic species to a hotline, www.IVEGOT1.org.
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