ROTONDA WEST — Florida wildlife officers captured a 9-foot Burmese python Monday morning in Englewood.
The python was discovered slithering across Cougar Way near Rotonda West, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports. Officers caught the reptile near Winchester Boulevard South, more than a mile from L.A. Ainger Middle School, which is also on Cougar Way.
Wildlife biologists say they will examine the python to determine if it was released by a pet owner or whether it is from the python population that established itself in the Everglades.
“The snake will be humanely killed and important biological data will be collected, including what native wildlife it may have eaten and whether or not it was a female with eggs,” said Wildlife Commission officer Adam Brown.
“It is particularly important to remove reproductive, active females, especially those with fertilized eggs, to prevent new pythons from hatching and increasing the population size,” Brown said.
Burmese pythons first captured headlines as their populations grew and threatened native wildlife — including alligators — in the eastern portions of the Everglades in Miami-Dade County.
That may be changing.
“Recent data indicate that the population is expanding to the north and west. Individuals have been found in southwest Florida in Naples and near Lake Okeechobee,” wildlife officials posted on myfwc.com.
“Python observations outside of South and Southwest Florida are likely escaped or released pets,” officials noted.
Wildlife officers have captured pythons in Lee and Collier counties. However, breeding snakes have only been captured in Collier County.
Pythons in Florida average between 6 and 9 feet long. The largest Burmese captured in Florida reached 18 feet.
Burmese pythons are tan with dark blotches along the back and sides. The blotches look like puzzle pieces or the markings on a giraffe. They have a pyramid-shaped head with a dark, arrowhead-shaped wedge extending toward the nose.
Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and are often found near or in water. They are excellent climbers and can be seen in trees.
Burmese pythons were once a popular exotic in the pet trade. No longer.
Python are federally listed as an “injurious species” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. They are illegal to import into the United States. Pythons native ranges include India, lower China, the Malay Peninsula and some islands of the East Indies.
In Florida, Burmese pythons prey upon mammals, birds and even alligators. They are also a danger to people, dogs, cats and other domesticated animals.
No permit nor license is required to kill pythons on private lands at any time — with landowner permission. State wildlife officials encourage people to remove and kill pythons from private lands whenever possible.
Pythons may also be killed at any time throughout the year from 25 wildlife management areas where pythons are known to exist. There is no bag limit. Pythons may be humanely killed unless restricted by specific area regulations.
For more information, visit myfwc.com.