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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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12-foot-long python captured by authorities in Port Tampa

TAMPA - A 12-foot-long Burmese python was captured over the weekend in Port Tampa by police and firefighters, who gingerly guided the reptile into a city-issued garbage can as spectators watched. "The neighbors were starting to get restless," said firefighter Aaron Taylor, who helped corral the constrictor. "The machetes were coming out." Taylor said firefighters were alerted to the situation when a man on a bicycle pulled up to Fire Station 19 on Sunday and said there was a big snake on a lawn down the street. Taylor took the brush truck to the address.
"We were trying to think of what could be done," he said. "We didn't know how big it was. There was a certain amount of uncertainty." They arrived and found the tipster wasn't kidding. "It was a monster python," said Taylor, who had never handled a snake larger than the 5-inch backyard variety. A crowd was starting to gather, he said, so more firefighters and police showed up. "It was quite a spectacle." Taylor said he fashioned a snare with fishing line and a cane pole and lassoed the reptile to keep it where it was. Getting it into a container was another matter. Firefighters and police tipped over a big, blue city garbage can, and the snake eventually was pushed inside. The garbage can was rolled to the fire station, at 4916 W. Ingraham St., and a wildlife expert was called, he said. The snake appeared to be a pet, said Vernon Yates of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Seminole. Yates was the one who came Sunday afternoon to collect the reptile. "It's on the thin side," he said this morning, "but it's extremely friendly and a well-behaved snake." The demeanor of the constrictor and its condition indicates it is a pet that escaped or was released, he said. Yates said he took the snake to a party he attended Sunday night, and several people handled it and there were no problems. "He's a very good snake," he said. Today, Yates will have the snake scanned to see whether there is an imbedded microchip, which will give authorities leads as to who owns the snake. Yates said he doubts the snake has a microchip, however. Florida law requires all owners of pythons or other exotic reptiles of concern to have state-issued permits and to have microchips put into their pets. Yates will hold the snake for 30 days for anyone to claim it. If no one does, he said, "We'll try to find a home; someplace where it will be used for education." Fetching unwanted or unclaimed large snakes is keeping Yates busy. Last week, he said, he drove to a home on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in North Tampa, where a snake owner recently died. There, he confiscated a 10-foot-long anaconda. The owner had no permit, and the snake had no microchip. Finding homes for such creatures sometimes is challenging, he said. "The market sometimes is, 'how much can I pay you to take it,' " he said. But destroying the reptile, even something as large and unruly as an anaconda, is not something Yates wants to consider. "Hey," he said, "it's a living thing."

Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.

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