MIAMI (CBS4) – West Kendall resident Frank Arbelaez still cringes when he thinks about Halloween night 2012.
He said what he saw happen to his Yorkie on the bank of the canal behind his home was traumatizing.
“I remember the snake taking my dog halfway in its mouth, jumping into the water and swimming away with him,” he told CBS4’s Brian Andrews.
Arbelaez believes it was an African Rock Python.
“The one that took my dog had to be 12 feet long,” he said.
Almost a year later and just a few blocks west of Arbelaez’s home, an African Rock Python killed a 60-pound Siberian Husky in a fenced in backyard, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
The snake slithered its way inside under a fence. The homeowner tried to get it off his dog by attempting to kill it with garden shears, but the snake was so big and strong, the metal simply bent.
Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said there is evidence of a colony of these snakes living in a six square mile area near Braddock High School near SW 147 Ave and Bird Road.
They’re not native to South Florida. Officials said they were most likely dumped here. They have no known predators and our warm weather and swamp-like conditions are perfect for reproduction.
Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said there should be community concern.
“There is certainly the potential of a small child going into the brush where there is a python 10 feet long and getting attacked. That python could attack that child out of sel- defense or maybe even a feeding response if it’s hungry,” said Magill who added that an African Rock Python can’t tell the difference between a small child and a small dog. “They are both warm blooded mammals and that snake is going to take it because they are opportunistic feeders.”
Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata is leading the charge to get the county to clean up more than a half dozen lots in the area designated as “protected areas.” The commissioner said these lots have become dumping grounds, which attract rats which, in turn, attracts the snakes. He also said these lots are unfortunately ‘convenient locations’ for python owners to dump their unwanted pets.
“It’s becoming a real public safety issue,” he said. “Kids could easily run in there trying to find some adventure and get themselves into trouble if they run into those snakes.”
Magill said while the African Rock Python is not venomous, “they do have many re-curved teeth that could cause severe injury or bleeding if a person is bitten.”
One possibility to rid the area of these dangerous snakes is currently being tested by the USDA at a laboratory in Gainesville. It’s an experimental trap that could soon be field tested in South Florida.
Magill said the python proliferation is not only a safety issue, it’s an environmental issue.
“They don’t belong in this environment. They create a negative impact on this environment and we need to be concerned about these snakes,” he said.
After the most recent attack where the Husky was killed, the FWC said it was considering mounting an information campaign. Commissioner Zapata says anyone who sees a snake in the neighborhood should call 311.