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Rock Python Kills Full-Grown Husky in Florida

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  At least 45 species of non-native reptiles and amphibians have established breeding populations in Florida.  The most notorious of these, the Burmese Python, Python bivittatus, has been much in the news in recent years.  Recently, however, another of the state’s introduced giant constrictors grabbed the headlines.

Female Rock Python

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tigerpython

On Sept. 10, 2013, a Northern African Rock Python, P. sebae, killed a 60 pound husky in a suburban yard near the Everglades.  While much has been made of the threats posed by large constrictors, what interested me most about this incident was the fact that the snake involved was quite small by Rock Python standards.  Despite being only 10 foot long and 38 pounds in weight, the snake was able to overcome and kill a 60 pound dog.

Based on my experiences with large constrictors in the Bronx Zoo and the wild, I would guess that the attack was defensive in nature.  The only 60 pound snake meal I’ve witnessed (a White-tailed Deer) involved a 17 foot long, 215 pound Green Anaconda…and its huge body appeared stretched to its limit.

Rock Pythons in Africa and Florida

The husky incident occurred in an area of Miami-Dade County known to harbor a population of African Rock Pythons (please see this article for further information).  First observed there in 2002, 25-40 individuals, including juveniles, have been captured since.  The dog that was killed weighed 60 pounds – well within the weight range that could be handled by a large African Rock Python.  While working at the Bronx Zoo, I often perused back issues of Herpetologica, Copeia and Herpetological Review.  Published accounts of African Rock Pythons taking Impala, Baboons and other large animals were common, and I recall several instances of predation upon humans.  Tragically, an African Rock Python that escaped its cage killed 2 boys in Canada last month. 

African Rock Python

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Graham J. Alexander,

The python involved in the instant case was wrapped around the dog’s neck, head and body.  It is very likely that the neck hold was critical in allowing the snake to overcome such a large, formidable animal.  Pressure in this area can render a person or animal unconscious in seconds.  A 5 foot-long Black Ratsnake nearly did so to a co-worker of mine, and healthy young men have been killed by relatively small Burmese Pythons that were allowed to coil about their necks.

Florida’s Other Large, Exotic Constrictors

In addition to Burmese and African Rock Pythons, the Boa Constrictor has established breeding populations in Florida.  Green Anacondas, Yellow Anacondas and White-Lipped Pythons have also been reported, but breeding has not been documented.  A reliable source informed me that a litter of Green Anacondas escaped into the swamps around Florida City in the early 1970’s, but I have not followed up on the story.

The Florida ranges of African Rock and Burmese Pythons overlap, and it is likely that feral individuals will encounter one another.  In captivity, the two species have hybridized. I’m not aware of any studies on the progeny, but would be interested to learn if they differ in habits or size from their parents.

Observations of exotic snakes should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission at www.IVEGOT1.com.

Rock Python, Botswana

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Martha de Jong-Lantink

Giant and Odd Snake Meals

From Caiman, Siamese Cats and African Hunting Dogs to centipedes and frog eggs, snakes have been observed feeding on many “unexpected” food items.  In Venezuela, a Green Anaconda grabbed my co-worker, in what appeared to be a feeding attempt, while a recent study documented 150 Reticulated Python attacks (6 of which were fatal) in the Philippines.  Please see the articles linked below for further details, and be sure to post your thoughts as well.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

Further Reading

Giant Snake Meals

Anaconda Attacks

Reticulated Python Attacks on People (Philippines)

Tagging Anacondas in Venezuela

Feral African Rock Pythons in Florida

 

 

 

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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