South Florida's long-festering invasive python problem has taken a turn for the horrible.
On August 30, a beloved family pet, a 60-pound Siberian Husky named Duke, was strangled to death by a 38-pound, 10-foot-long North African python in the backyard of a Miami-area home.
Scope the photos of the crime scene here. But fair warning: They are very, very disturbing.
The family’s 911 call to authorities moments after they returned home from a night out was brief and chilling.
Caller: “We have a six-foot python in our backyard that just killed our dog. Who do we need to call to come and get this?” Dispatcher: “Do you guys have the snake corralled?” Caller: “It’s curled around our dog’s neck.”
State wildlife officials were on the scene in minutes and captured the snake and later euthanized it. And while the snake's neck appeared to have puncture wounds from where Duke bit it, officlals were not sure if the snake saw the husky as prey or if the dog provoked it.
"It was a healthy dog, a dog that we consider capable of defending itself. It just maybe bit off more than it could chew when it got too near the snake," said Capt. Jeff Fob of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Venom One unit, which responds to snake-related emergencies, to the A.P.
Of the more than 20 species of pythons, rock pythons have a terrible temper. "They come out of the egg striking," Kenneth Krysko, a herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, told National Geographic in 2009. "This is just one vicious animal."
Since 2009, officials have removed more than 25 rock pythons from the area.
That number pales in comparison to the 100,000 burmese pythons slithering through the peninsula's warm waters and lush marsh grasses. Native to Southeast Asia, the first snakes came to Florida in the 1980s as part of the exotic pet trade. It is also believed that some pythons simply slithered out the front door of Miami-area pet stores after Hurricane Andrew struck the city in 1992.
The foreigners are voracious eaters, using their elastic jaws to swallow the Sunshine state's small mammals like raccoons, marsh rabbits, and possums. They're also prolific breeders, capable of laying many eggs at once.
And, over the years, the state's gotten quite creative—some would even say desperate—in its attempts to exterminate the unwanted visitors: They've enlisted the help of python-sniffing dogs, held python-hunting contests, and even supported turning the critters into handbags.
Sadly, none of these safeguards could protect Duke, the husky.
And now Duke's owner is afraid for the lives of her children.
"We're afraid to go outside," said Duke's owner, Michelle Rojas, 43, who tried but failed to yank to the snake off Duke with the help of her 22-year old son. She told the Tampa Bay Times that her other, younger, children were traumatized by the incident. "This thing could've gotten one of my kids," she said.