Pet Python Strangles Toddler

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OXFORD, Fla. – A pet python that escaped from its cage killed a two-year Florida girl on Wednesday.

Authorities believe the 12-foot-long Burmese python entered the toddler’s room during the night, where it attacked the child.

When the python’s owner and boyfriend of the child’s mother found the snake on top of her, he tried to stab it to death.

But the child was dead when paramedics arrived, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The snake’s owner could face child endangerment charges, according to the newspaper report.

Burmese pythons, which are native to Burma in Southeast Asia, are sold by exotic pet shops. When they grow too big for their owners – up to 16 feet long and 150 pounds – they're often set free in the Everglades National Park.

With no natural predators, the huge snakes have proliferated there, occasionally turning up in a residential neighborhood.

80 Pounds of Pressure per Square Inch

Pythons anchor their prey with their teeth before coiling around it and squeezing it to death. The snakes are able to apply up to 80 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Frank Mazzotti, an associate professor at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who has been conducting research on the pythons since 2005, published an updated statistical report on them last year.

“We’ve defined the problem and science is really coming to the aid of management efforts,” Mazzotti said.

“We really need to be addressing the spread of these pythons. They’re capable of surviving anywhere in Florida. They’re capable of incredible movement…in a relatively short period,” he said.

“Females may store sperm so they can produce fertile clutches for years. And a 100-something pound snake can easily be producing 60 to 80 eggs a year,” he said.

Science Daily provided the following statistics from Mazzotti’s report:

From 2002-2005, 201 pythons were captured or found dead in and around Everglades National Park. In 2006-2007, the number more than doubled, to 418. Everglades wildlife biologist Skip Snow has estimated the population at more than 30,000.

Since May 2006, trackers have found seven pregnant female snakes and one nest of eggs; one recently captured python had 85 developing eggs.

Autopsied pythons found in Key Largo contained the remains of the endangered Key Largo woodrat. Other species on the pythons’ prey menu include rabbit, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, domestic cats, raccoons, bobcats, white-tailed deer, limpkin, white ibis and the American alligator.

Not only are pythons fantastic swimmers, they can cover a lot of ground, as well. Two pythons with surgically implanted radio transmitters were found to have traveled 35 miles and 43 miles. Trackers stepped in and caught the male, concerned that it was too close to homes near a Miccosukee Indian Reservation.

Sources: Reuters, Science Daily

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