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ELUSIVE 11-FOOT BOA MEETS ITS MATCH IN CONDO BUSHES

For at least two months, the 70-pound red-tail boa constrictor slithered across the city's northern neighborhoods, eluding public safety officials and amateur hunters determined to catch it.

On Saturday, its days of freedom came to a close.

The 11-foot reptile was captured after a man saw the snake near his home on Brighton Bay Boulevard NE and called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at about noon Saturday. The state agency gave the job to trapper Vernon Yates.

Yates, founder of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Seminole, said he found the boa coiled in some bushes near a condominium building. He said he grabbed its head and yanked.

"You just get down on your hands and knees and pull them out," said Yates.

The first official snake sighting occurred on July 11. Four St. Petersburg police officers tried to corral the snake when the dormant animal suddenly jolted to life and slithered off into mangroves.

Nobody knows how long the snake was on the loose.

"He is a monster snake," said Yates. "He is one of the biggest boa constrictors I've ever seen."

State officials are seeing a growing number of foreign snakes across Florida as owners release their oversized pets into the wild. Keeping a red-tail boa constrictor does not require a permit, but the snakes pose a threat to pets when set free, said Gary Morse, a wildlife commission spokesman.

If no one claims the snake, Yates said, the animal will be donated to a nature center or used for other educational purposes.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

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