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Florida python swallows a whitetail deer!

Python in Everglades swallows 76-pound deer
Largest intact prey ever found in python in Florida

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An adult deer was found intact inside a huge Burmese python Thursday, after the snake was captured and killed in the Everglades.

Contractors for the South Florida Water Management District encountered the python on a tree island in western Miami-Dade County, according to the district. It was killed with a shotgun blast.

The 15.7-foot snake had a massive bulge from a recently consumed 76-pound female deer, the largest intact prey ever found in a Burmese python in Florida, said Skip Snow, a biologist and python specialist at Everglades National Park, who conducted the necropsy.

The python, an ambush predator, had staked out a known deer trail, he said. When the deer walked by, the snake presumably seized the animal in its sharp, backward-pointing teeth, crushed the deer under its weight and coiled around it, killing the deer before consuming it, he said.

Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in the Everglades over the past several years, arriving by way of the exotic pet business. State and federal wildlife officials say they say they were released by pet owners after having grown too large or escaped from enclosures destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.

The snakes primarily eat smaller mammals and birds, with larger pythons taking alligators, deer and hogs. Although pythons have been discovered with deer remains before, this is the first time such a snake was caught after just consuming a deer. That allowed biologists to see the size prey a python is capable of taking, Snow said. With the deer inside, the snake had a girth of 44 inches.

“This is clearly an extreme event,” he said. “It shows you they can eat huge things.”

Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the snake was discovered by work crews walking carefully through a tree island to remove non-native lygodium plants.

“It’s pretty clearly one of the biggest snakes we’ve seen,” Hardin said. “We haven’t gotten anything longer than 16 feet in the wild in Florida.”

October 28, 2011|By David Fleshler, Sun Sentinel