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Florida wildlife officers kill more than 30 snakes at reptile facility, video shows

In the video, officers are seen killing a snake that turned out to be a pregnant boa constrictor, which is not illegal to own as a pet in Florida.
 
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer holds a dead python he just killed as another officer takes a photo on April 6.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer holds a dead python he just killed as another officer takes a photo on April 6. [ CHRIS COFFEE, via Miami Herald ]
Published April 12, 2023

MIAMI — A disturbing video was posted online this week showing Florida wildlife officers killing dozens of snakes at a Sunrise reptile facility.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers last Thursday used a device that launched a charge into the snakes’ heads, killing more than 30 of the reptiles, according to the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, the snake advocacy group that posted the video.

At one point in the video, the officers are seen killing a snake that turned out to be a pregnant boa constrictor, which is not illegal to own as a pet in Florida. The officers’ reaction indicates they knew they made a mistake just moments after they killed the snake.

“You can’t fix it. You just killed something that wasn’t illegal and had about a hundred thousand dollars worth of (expletive) babies,” a man is heard yelling in the background.

According to the Reptile Keepers, the officers were carrying out an unannounced raid on the facility. In total, the officers killed 34 snakes, the snake group said in a statement.

The wildlife commission said Tuesday it is aware of the video, but the agency did not immediately issue a statement or comment.

Daniel Parker, a spokesperson with the Reptile Keepers, said the boa was pregnant with 32 babies, which were about a month away from being born. Some had “unique color morphs” and could have sold for up to $4,000 each, Parker said.

Reason for the raid

According to Parker, the owner of the snakes, Chris Coffee, had a permit to keep them prior to the state labeling Burmese and reticulated pythons as prohibited species in February 2021.

Burmese pythons are believed to have arrived in South Florida as pets in the 1980s.
Burmese pythons are believed to have arrived in South Florida as pets in the 1980s. [ MIAMI HERALD | Miami Herald ]

After the rule change, the agency gave him five months to find homes for all 120 of the now-prohibited reptiles in his collection, Parker said. Coffee was able to get rid of most of the snakes, but still had almost 40 left by the time the deadline was up.

“In an effort to remain on good terms with FWC, Coffee notified FWC in good faith about a year ago that he was having difficulties rehoming his animals in the short amount of time allowed by FWC,” Parker said in a statement. “He asked FWC for more time, believing that he had no choice.”

State Fish and Wildlife officers instead arrested Coffee on 72 charges for keeping the snakes. But they also stuck him in a no-win situation, according to the Reptile Keepers.

“However, rather than seize the animals, FWC officers told Coffee that he had to continue to keep the snakes in captivity and that he could not rehome or euthanize them or he would be arrested again,” Parker said. “Coffee’s life has been turned upside down and he is still on probation as a result of the charges that never should have been issued against him.”

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‘It was a mistake’

Coffee was keeping his snakes at the Sunrise facility, which is owned by a man named Bill McAdam, who also owned the pregnant boa constrictor, Parker said.

Coffee is the man heard in the background yelling at the officers. He said he told them numerous times not to kill that particular reptile.

One of the officers asks Coffee, “Is there a way to maybe save the babies?”

“Oh, no dude,” Coffee responds.

The officer replies, “It was a mistake.”

“How? I reminded you. (Expletive)!” Coffee says as items can be heard being thrown around.

McAdam told the Miami Herald that he has retained an attorney and plans to sue the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “This was a big mistake and they need to pay for it,” he said. “The FWC has power nobody else has and they’re abusing their power. They’re trampling on people’s constitutional rights, and it’s wrong.”

By David Goodhue, Miami Herald.