Got a question about creatures in your back yard? Send it to us!
Here’s a look at the creatures in your backyard.
I asked for stories, photos and questions and got dozens of responses about everything from swamp rats and giant ants to bobcats and owls. This month we’re focusing on reader photos of visiting bobcats, as well as stories and questions about Burmese pythons and lizards.
Naples Daily News reader Mark Lawn, who works for JC Construction, had a close encounter with a large creature while working on a hotel at Port of the Everglades in 2000. His story follows:
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We were finishing up a job around Christmas time in 2000 at the Ramada in the Port of the Everglades. We were hired as contractors to do remodeling. One Sunday, it was still closed and we were finishing up at about 3 p.m. I remember it really well because there was a football game on and we wanted to get back to town to watch it.
We were coming out of the office and this maid comes screaming by and running out of the front door. I’d never heard anything like it, it was like her hair was on fire. It was like she was being attacked. That scream, I can still hear it. So (my co-worker) Joe went to check on her and I went to see what was going on.
I saw her maid cart parked in front of one of the rest rooms. I poked my head in there and there’s this huge, yellow python wrapped around the commode.
All I did was stick my head in there and I almost started running.
We called the police, the sheriff showed up, they took one look at it and called this husband and wife team and their 14-year-old son named Adam. They were the snake handlers out of Everglades City. So they got this thing out and it took most of the deputies to carry this snake out to the truck. It was 14 feet long and I remember the kid telling me it was about 10 pounds per foot.
This thing was totally wrapped around the commode. It was our first cold snap. Adam told me that after Hurricane Andrew pet shops were decimated in that area and that a lot of creatures had gotten away. I believed him when he said that because of his color, the snake came from a pet shop.
Afterwards, we went to the bar to watch the football game and I missed the whole game because I was telling stories about the snake the whole time.
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YOUR CREATURE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Question: We live in the Pine Ridge Estates and earlier this summer we heard lots of blue jays squawking so we went outside to check it out. Much to our surprise, we found this 4- to 5-foot snake climbing up the side of our house! We think it is a Burmese python, perhaps you can verify that. I wish I had known more about them at the time and how to capture them. I haven’t seen it since then, but since I have a Pomeranian, I continually keep an eye out for it.
— Jan Goldsmith, Naples
Question: This photo was taken May 4 on my driveway in Estero. The location is north of Coconut Road, west of Three Oaks Parkway and east of U.S. 41. Is this a young python? I have had one person say no and another say yes.
— Ralph Madden, Estero
Answer: Actually, neither of the snakes in these photos snapped by our readers are Burmese pythons, says Kevin Enge, reptile expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Both snakes are red rat snakes, which are also called corn snakes, they’re just different color morphs. The snake Ralph Madden snapped a photo of is the typical coloring, and the one Jan Goldsmith photographed is called an anerythristic morph, which means “without red,” Enge explains. The morph looks a lot like a gray rat snake, but they’re not as far south as Naples.
They’re native, non-venemous and are good to have around because they eat rodents that carry disease, the experts say. They don’t eat pets, so Goldsmith’s Pomeranian is safe.
If you do find a Burmese python on your own private property you can take matters into your own hands — as long as you’re obeying the laws where you live, says Gabriella Ferraro, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman.
“You can certainly throw a rock at it or hit it with a shovel or cut its head off with a shovel as long as it’s done humanely,” she says. “And if you live in a community that allows you to discharge a firearm you can do that.”
If you’re concerned that an animal is a public safety issue, call the wildlife alert hotline: 1-888-404-3922. To ask questions or report a sighting, call the commission’s regional office in Lakeland at 863-648-3200.
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Question: Have you seen these giant lizards? I’m a Naples native and I have never seen one before last Tuesday — when I saw two. It was probably a foot long or so, bright green with blue markings on top of its head. Another invasive species?
— Cyndee Woolley, Naples
Question: This lizard is seen in our yard at Village Walk on Vanderbilt Beach Road regularly. It is usually seen on top of this wall or in a tree. Is it a knight anole?
— Stu Wiles, Naples
Answer: Both lizards are knight anoles, which have been in Naples since at least 1995, Enge says, and yes, they are an invasive species. In the pet trade they’re sometimes called Cuban knight anoles.
“They’re really big and they don’t just eat insects, they eat other vertebrates,” he says. “Along with insects, they’re known to eat nestling birds, other lizards, and small snakes. They also eat fruit.”
Their impact an as invasive species isn’t really known, Enge says. It will depend on their density, but if there are a lot of them they may have an impact over time.