"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Giant Monster Python Devours Miami!!

Not exactly, but things do seem to be getting out of hand in South Florida. A long time ago, I spent several years living in Miami; the nastiest critters I recall having to deal with back then were huge cockroaches, the kind you have to step on two or three times just to get their attention. But recently, there have been three separate episodes involving run-ins with large, bad-tempered exotic snakes. Earlier this month, a python tangled with a American alligator in the Everglades. The 13-foot snake and 6-foot gator both ended up dead, locked together so gruesomely that it was hard to make heads, tails or any other body part of either creature. When the carcasses were found in an isolated marsh in Everglades National Park, the gator's tail and hind legs protruded from the ruptured gut of a python, which had swallowed it whole. As an added touch of the macabre, the snake's head was missing. For reasons scientists have yet to exactly determine, the snake exploded as it tried to swallow the alligator.

So far, several theories abound,
none of them pretty and all speculative because once on the scene, Everglades National Park biologist Skip Snow quickly abandoned plans to load the bloated, badly decomposed carcasses onto his helicopter to take back for evaluation.

"We decided there was no way we were going to do that," he said. "Something was going to go wrong and it was going to be nasty."

The following Sunday, a 12-foot Burmese python showed up in a wooded area behind the home of Elida Rodriguez in northwest Miami-Dade. Her Siamese cat, Francis, had been missing for two days, and when her son, Andres, noticed a peculiar bulge in the python's belly, he said "I'm sure there's a cat in there".

There was. An x-ray of the python's stomach later confirmed that the snake had indeed eaten the 18-pound housecat.




Francis Before...
and After

The latest incident happened Monday when 77-year old Felix Azquz arrived at his chicken and turkey nursery on Coral Way to check on his birds. First he noticed one of the turkeys was missing. Then he spotted a 10-foot African rock python. It had been lean and sleek when it slithered through the fence, but after gobbling up a turkey dinner, the bulge in the snake's belly prevented it from making an escape; it couldn't fit through the fence.

"It scared me," said Azquz. "I ran outside to call the police."
Captain Al Cruz, head of the Miami-Dade fire-rescue anti-venom unit, arrived and found that the snake was aggressive and had a bad temper. "It launches at everything that tries to come near it," he said. Snake experts dubbed the turkey-eating python Goblin, in the spirit of the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving season.

What the hell's going on here?

Many pythons, which are native to Asia and not Florida, are former pets that end up in the wild after being abandoned by their owners once they grow too big to handle. Steamy South Florida provides an ideal environment for the reptiles to grow and breed. Before this week, Miami had an average of three to four python sightings per year, so this dramatic upswing in the number of encounters has many people worried. Sooner or later one is going to get ahold of a small child. Hollywood screenwriters take note: this would make a great plot for an icky made-for-TV movie.

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