A state wildlife official says the danger of Burmese pythons to people remains "vanishingly small," despite the discovery last week in the Everglades of a python that had consumed an adult deer.
Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says snakes of as big as the 15.7-footer that ate the deer are very rare and exist in areas where the primary hazard to people will remain alligators. "Anyone out in those areas certainly needs to keep their eyes open," he said.
"I'll never say the danger is zero," Hardin said. "If a snake that size wrapped you up you'd be in trouble. But snakes that size are extremely rare. The ones brought in are in the four-to-eight-foot range."
Last Thursday contractors for the South Florida Water Management District encountered the python on a tree island in western Miami-Dade County. It was killed with a shotgun blast. The necropsy revealed that it had just consumed a 76-pound deer, the largest intact prey ever recovered from a python in Florida.
Burmese pythons, which came to South Florida via the exotic pet industry, exist overwhelmingly south of Interstate 75, with the majority tending to cluster within a few miles of Tamiami Trail, Hardin said. Although they have expanded their range, the movement has tended to be west toward Naples rather than north, where it quickly becomes too cold for them, he said.
Pythons have killed people in the United States, but only as escaped pets killing their owners or the owners' family members.
Last winter's severe cold took a sharp toll on pythons, although the extent remains unknown, Hardin said.
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