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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peckish python: 16ft-long snake found with adult deer in its stomach

The 16ft-long Burmese Python is captured by amazed workers in Everglades National Park in Florida

The snake is the first these biologists had cut open so soon after it had eaten a deer

A 16-foot-long Burmese python was found to have a whole adult deer in its stomach after it was captured and killed in a U.S. national park.

The reptile - one of the biggest ever found in South Florida - had recently swallowed a doe the size of a small child.

Skip Snow, a python specialist who conducted the autopsy at Everglades National Park, said the animal had a girth of 44ins with the 5st 6lb deer inside its stomach.

'This is clearly an extreme event,' he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 'It shows you they can eat huge things.'

The python - an ambush predator - would have staked out a known deer trail, seized the animal in its sharp teeth, crushed it by coiling around it and then eaten the corpse, he said.

It is the first time a snake has been caught so soon after eating a deer, allowing biologists to see just how large their prey can be.

Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the capture of the reptile was crucial to help prevent the spread of pythons further north.

'It’s pretty clearly one of the biggest snakes we’ve seen,' he said. 'We haven’t gotten anything longer than 16ft in the wild in Florida.'

The population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades has grown over the past several years, after being bought by people in the area as exotic pets.

State and federal wildlife officials say the dangerous snakes have been set loose by owners after growing too big, or escaped from enclosures destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The pythons primarily eat smaller mammals and birds, but larger specimens are happy to munch on alligators, deer and hogs.

The snake was discovered by workers from South Florida Water Management District, who were removing non-native plants from a tree island.

The world's largest captive snake is a 25ft, 22st python called Medusa, who lives in Kansas City and is capable of killing and consuming animals that weigh as much as a healthy adult.

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