Mighty python: Local forest rangers catch 15-foot snake

Florida Forest Service rangers Jean Bernard Tarrete, left, Dave Gravitt, center, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Ross Scott stretch out a 15-foot, 3-inch Burmese Python caught by Tarrete and another ranger on March 21, 2012 in Picayune State Forest.

Florida Forest Service rangers Jean Bernard Tarrete, left, Dave Gravitt, center, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Ross Scott stretch out a 15-foot, 3-inch Burmese Python caught by Tarrete and another ranger on March 21, 2012 in Picayune State Forest.

Jean Bernard Tarrete had the python by the tail, walking in circles to keep a step ahead of the huge snake’s attacking head.

“It was almost pulling me into the canal,” said Tarrete, who caught the python on his last day on the job as a Florida Forest Service ranger.

At 15 feet, 3 inches, the nonnative invasive snake Tarrete and co-worker Wilbur Chaney caught and killed along the Miller canal at Lynch Boulevard in the Picayune Strand State Forest last week was just inches short of the 16-foot record for a python pulled out of the wilds of South Florida.

Its discovery solidifies the python presence in Southwest Florida, where biologists are still struggling to get a handle on the spread of the python population from its core in Everglades National Park.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to conduct a necropsy on the snake to determine its reproductive capacity and to find out what it might have been eating, Conservation Commission wildlife biologist Jennifer Ketterlin Eckles said.

She said wildlife agencies lack python data in Southwest Florida compared to data in the national park, and snakes the size of last week’s find don’t come around too often.

“It is pretty rare,” she said,

When word reached the Florida Forest Service about the python at the spot in the southern end of the state forest, rangers Tarrete and Chaney decided to see if they could find it.

Scientists see the python spread as a threat to native wildlife and the balance of the Everglades ecosystem; the Interior Department earlier this year banned the importation of pythons and the transport of them across state lines.

Tarrete and Chaney came up empty-handed on their first trip. They spotted the snake, but it escaped into a culvert, Tarrete said. They found the snake again a week later.

“The first one I see is 15 feet, it was a big surprise,” Tarrete said.

Tarrete held the tail, and Chaney grabbed the head. The two killed it with a rake rangers usually use to set fire breaks during controlled burns, Tarrete said.

Tarrete stood on the top of his pickup truck’s toolbox to hoist the python by the tail over the open tailgate and into the bed of the truck to be hauled away. A YouTube video of the feat doesn’t make it look easy — or pretty.

Forest Service spokesman Victor Hill issued a statement late Thursday saying the agency chose not to announce the python’s capture because the snake was killed inhumanely and counter to rangers’ training.

“We appreciate the efforts of these rangers to capture and kill the python but we absolutely do not condone the way it was handled,” Hill said.

Tarrete resigned from the Forest Service for reasons unrelated to the python killing, Hill said.

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Comments » 6

bondie writes:

Give me a break! They complained that killing the python was inhumane. They are an invasive danger to our SW Florida habitats. If the python ate your pet, child, or even you, should we all turn the other way and say that it is inhuman to try to rid or kill these invasive predators?

Is_It_True_Partially_True_Or_Not_True (Inactive) writes:

Still there are people that get a visceral thrill out of killing. Those same people would also get a thrill out of the python strangling and eating its prey.

Come on, beating and killing the snake with a rake? There surely could have been a more humane way.

ITALIANMAMA writes:

in response to Is_It_True_Partially_True_Or_Not_True:

Still there are people that get a visceral thrill out of killing. Those same people would also get a thrill out of the python strangling and eating its prey.

Come on, beating and killing the snake with a rake? There surely could have been a more humane way.

WHEN FACED WITH DANGER, ESPECIALLY FROM A SNAKE, THERE IS NO TIME TO COME UP WITH "HUMANE" WAYS TO KILL A SNAKE. WOULD YOU HAVE WORRIED ABOUT HUMANE KILLING IF THE SNAKE HAD ATTACKED YOUR CHILE? THEY HAVE BEEN KNOW TO EAT 75 POUND DEER.

ITALIANMAMA writes:

Thank you Mr Tarrete, Mr Gravitt and Mr Scott for your bravery, Don't let anyone tell you you made a mistake killing a dangerous snake in an inhumane way. We are being inundated by these preditors, not to mention the danger to our wildlilfe in the Everglades. Keep up the good work.

Is_It_True_Partially_True_Or_Not_True (Inactive) writes:

Did either of you really take a look at the photographs? Those guys were shown playing with the snake before they decided to "rake it to death". There was no danger when they were playing with it, was there? Someone just wanted a head trophy that was not damaged. Bravery or just out for a fun time killing?

The snakes should be killed in a humane way, that is all that is being said.

26yearsonmarco writes:

In my opinion, the Rangers were “Standing Their Ground”, felt threatened, and killed the Monster even though it was not wearing a “Hoodie”.
The Revs Sharpton and Jackson need to get their Butts down here and form a Protest March of Hoodies into the Everglades to protect these Poor and Mistreated Monsters.
Louie Farakan can also get involved by moving his entire Clan into the Everglades to protect the Hoodies.
The only problem I see is the effect of having all Those People consumed by the Alligators, and the taste of Alligator meat burgers.

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