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Police trap massive python near Tarpon Springs apartment

TARPON SPRINGS — Loren Mell was walking his puppy Bonnie in the woods near his apartment complex Thursday when he decided to look for a nice fishing spot.

Instead, he found a 14½-foot python sunning itself.

"I thought, at first, I was just going crazy seeing things," said Mell, 25. "The thing was huge."

Mell dashed back to his unit at Riverside Apartments and grabbed a mop to "guard" the snake while his roommate called police.

Police arrived shortly after 2 p.m. One officer used a dog snare to trap the African rock python. Two others picked up the 150- to 200-pound snake, carried it from the woods and then secured it in a garbage can.

"It took three full-grown officers to wrestle with it, to get it through the woods, and they had to take a break halfway through," Mell said.

Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission removed the python. It was a "well-fed snake," said commission spokesman Gary Morse.

The python was definitely a pet at one time, he said. Whether it was properly registered is another question.

In Florida, African rock pythons are one of several python species considered a "reptile of concern." State law says they have to be registered and kept in a locked container. Owners must obtain a state permit.

The snake is being held by wildlife trapper Vernon Yates, who said he hasn't scanned the snake yet to see if has a registered owner.

If the owner isn't found, he said, he'll turn it over to someone who is licensed to keep pythons.

Pythons can be dangerous. In 2009, a 2-year-old girl was strangled in her crib by a pet Burmese python in Sumter County.

Tarpon Springs police Capt. Barb Templeton said it was disturbing to find such a snake near a complex with so many young children.

"There's kids out there playing all the time," Templeton said.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Police trap massive python near Tarpon Springs apartment 01/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 11:22am]
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