It's off to the auction block for a 20-foot, 250-pound python known to gobble down raccoons "like they were marshmallows" within the glow of the glitzy Fort Lauderdale beach strip.
A veteran animal trapper who helped wrestle the snake from under a home Thursday said he hopes to get at least $500 from a zoo or nature preserve.The snake, which slithered about the residential seaside neighborhood for years, was stuffed into a sleeping bag after it was displayed to curious onlookers.
"He won't have to eat for about a week," said Todd Hardwick, owner of Pesky Critters Relocation in suburban Miami. "When it's time, I might feed him a rabbit."
"We saw the head at first and everyone said, `Wow!"' said Bob Moxley, a park ranger at Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area, where the snake searched for its prey. "When it all came out, everybody just screamed."
Hardwick believes the python was a pet released years ago in the park and probably rested under the house when not hunting for food.
"The homeowners had been calling people for a month, but no one wanted to go after it," said Hardwick, whose company traps nuisance animals. "People say they've seen it eat 30-pound raccoons like they were marshmallows."
The reticulate python, a native of Southeast Asia and Indonesia, can grow to more than 30 feet. Though not venomous, the snake coils around prey to stop breathing and blood flow.
On Wednesday, Hardwick and a three-man crew began digging tunnels below the home. They found the snake about eight feet underground next to a concrete wall.
Homeowner David Spalding said he was unafraid of the reptile, but he feared it might attack a small child.