If you have "no place to go," come here!

Don't taze that python, bro!

From this morning (Jan. 24 2008) National Park Service Morning Report:

Everglades National Park (FL)
Rangers Remove Python From Visitor’s Car

On Tuesday, January 15th, visitor Ron DeLong stopped his car on the main park road in order to watch a crawling, six-foot-long, exotic Burmese python. As DeLong stepped out of his Ford Explorer, the python began crawling underneath the vehicle and into its engine compartment.

DeLong attempted to grab the python with the curved end of his walking cane, but was unable to stop it.

After several failed attempts to remove the snake, DeLong decided to drive 15 miles to the main entrance station for assistance. When ranger Willie Lopez, wildlife biologist Skip Snow, biologist’s assistant Alex Wolf and firefighter Henry Delvalle checked the Explorer, they found its hood open, with only the tail end of the python visible – the rest of the snake was coiled around various parts of the engine and undercarriage.

Several attempts were made to pull it out through the top of the engine, but failed because the snake tightened its hold on the car. The four responders then discussed their options.

I dare you not to click

Snow reported that there had been several published articles about the successful use of tasers to loosen the tight grip of constricting snakes, so that was tried. Unfortunately, it resulted in the python contracting and excreting bodily fluids all over the responders.

They then decided to disassemble parts of the Explorer’s undercarriage in order to get to the python’s head, which was then covered with duct tape. The snake’s head and body were uncoiled and maneuvered through the engine compartment, then pulled out the top of the engine.

Since Burmese pythons are exotic, prolific and aggressive, the snake was euthanized and taken to a lab to be studied.

DeLong’s car was then put back together. [Submitted by Willie Lopez, Pine Island District Ranger]

Nobody comes out of this story looking very good. Most especially not me, because (hangs head in shame) despite my sympathies for all parties involved (except maybe the guy who thought it would be amusing to stop his Very Large Vehicle to look at a snake, and his subsequent notion that a walking cane was an appropriate Reptile Control Device) I can't stop laughing when I read this.

bad xan. bad, bad xan.

But I still want to know just what "bodily fluids" a snake is capable of excreting all over these unfortunate responders? If we can figure out this technique I'm gonna bet it cuts down on casual taser use somethin' fierce....

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leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

Actually, I think everyone comes out pretty good in this story...the python was doing its python thing, I think it took guts for the car owner to drive with a deadly snake wrapped around his engine, and I think that rangers showed themselves committed to helping a fellow human while making survival of the snake a priority...and why go to the Everglades if you can't watch a python...and you were right, even though I was fearful that something horrible was going to happen to either human or snake, I couldn't not find out...and you, Xan, come out just fine, for having recognized a comedy classic when you see one...

The real moral of this story, tasers are literally good for nothing....

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

It's not like the python took up permanent residence. It would have extricated itself eventually—like, ya know, after the car engine cooled.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

are the fools here. The guy driving the SUV is the first, but the biggest are those who ended up destroying the snake.

It would have been kinder to impound the SUV and wait for the snake to crawl away.


We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

They are, as their name clearly indicates, native to Burma, not South Florida. Was reading something a few weeks back about what a plague the damn things are. No, not just SUV drivers or even humans, they are wreaking havoc on the local ecosystems of native plants and animals. All thanks to idiots in the "exotic pets" trade who wuv theyow widdle snakey-wakey when it drapes attractively around their necks and dump it in the nearest canal when it outgrows the tank it was living in.

I don't like to see an animal killed (other than for food) any more than anybody else but I swat mosquitoes. these creatures really are exterminated on sight for good reason. It would have been destroyed if it had crawled out of the engine block, stood on its tail and juggled six alligators while reciting The Cremation of Sam McGree.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

dump it in Cheney's underground lair so it can fulfill it's natural pest removal function—then give it a medal and send it on a one-way flight back home.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on


Burmese pythons are a BIG problem in ENP. They get big enough to go after medium gators, and are a second top predator on the wading birds & key deer and small tourists. Bad news all around.

Kindness is a funny thing in the field: not killing the snake would indirectly kill many cute chicks, bunnies, and eventually key deer. At that point I come down on the side of the native and endangered species and killing the exotic python, but others don't.

I suspect that if Skip Snow had a good shot at it, he might have used a machete. He also has to worry about the publicity, so maybe not. Me, personally, well I would have used a CO2 fire extinguisher, but I'm not enough of a herpetologist to know if pythons lock up when they die (in which case my reaction would have been very bad). Aside from knowing pythons, Skip Snow was saving our tax $$ (and his budget): my solution would have cost $20 to refill the extinguisher. I suspect tasers cost less per shot.

The best solution would have been to run over & kill that snake, but NPS obviously can't recommend or allow that, or else all snakes of all species would be at risk. Too few people would have positive ID unless the python was >10', and too many would run over any snake and use the ID as an excuse.

The bodily fluids would have been a _really_ foul musk and piss & shit. I've dealt with snakes enough to know that much, and know it is quite funny if you weren't the one handling the snake, and don't need to spend the next few days in the field without showering with the colleague who was squirted.

ps: part of the "taken to the lab was some way-cool DNA fingerprinting. These pythons reproduce sexually if possible, but they can reproduce parthenogenically if males aren't available. A grad student is distinguishing different pet store sources and mapping where the snakes are reproducing sexually and asexually.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Good to hear about the DNA/pet shop/sources thing. The notion of parthenogenic reproduction in an animal of that size is a bit it truly parthenogenic, do the females retain semen so as to fertilize more than one batch of eggs, or is this one of the things this lab project is intended to figure out?

Thanks too for the details on the musk and ejectable-bodily-fluids business. Well, I suppose not 'thanks' exactly, but...ew, snake musk...well, hell, just thanks. I did ask after all. :)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Single females can lay fertile (diploid) eggs, genetically identical with the entire genome of the mother [Groot et al. 2003. Heredity 90:130-135]. If given the opportunity the same female apparently can mate and produce eggs with recombination: half her genome and half from the sperm. Biologically, that's an odd combination, as most parthenogenic reptiles are (thought to be) like the famous whiptail lizards (Cnemidophorus): all-female species that can only reproduce parthenogenically. Monitor lizards also appear to be facultatively parthenogenic; its not clear how many other snake species are. We know very little about reproduction in reptiles, and what we know is weird from the mammalian perspective: things like environmental sex determination (temperature) in turtles.

The lab project is looking at modes of reproduction in the snakes in the Everglades. Sequencing the right bits of DNA, they can distinguish absolutely identical individuals (and see how many and of what age ranges they find for each genotype) from asexual reproduction, unique 1 of a kind genotypes from sexual reproduction (and count the number of haplotypes to estimate the breeding population size), and I believe some larger genetic differences among the different pet store sources. The working idea is that snakes along the canals and roads on the Miami edge of the park are direct releases from pets. Snakes found far from the roads may be dispersing snakes, or offspring from different establishing populations. The results will help management efforts.

Unfortunately, the lead PI (Tim Collins FIU) doesn't have the python project up on his website, nor even much about his work on snakeheads (several genera of walking fish available in oriental live-fish markets and spreading in Maryland, Georgia, and Florida) or apple snails (native to the Everglades, exotic & spreading in southern California among other places). He's a careful, solid systematist; these are interesting side projects with graduate students and postdocs.

Most snakes will get you with musk when handled roughly; when I got slimed it wasn't too bad and sorta washed off my hands with soap & water. As for yucky wildlife jobs, a friend & colleague worked collecting sea lion poop while an undergraduate. Sea lions eat fish, especially oily fish. She claims the stench is worse even than taking tissue samples from bloated whales that wash up on the beach after fermenting for a few weeks. I'll take her word for it!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

A surprising number of species are capable of parthenogenesis, but the big buzz is about the recent documentation of it occurring in sharks.

Please note the scientist's caveat that while men may be boorish and primitive and generally annoying and unnecessary, we are useful for mainlining genetic diversity. Funny, how our principle interest – mating with as many women as possible – turns out to be our principle utility in the survival of the species. Wonderful, that, and surely deserving of some sort of supportive legal consideration if not outright moral glorification.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

titter. you guys will do anything, make "science" or write "holy books" to excuse your constant desire to be Dawgs. it won't work, BIO. ;-) unless of course you want to join me in the chorus of "to hell with marriage as a valid social construct." free love for all, babee, including us "genetically conservative" wimminz.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

'cause the problem with widespread dissemination of sperm is that all too often it goes hand-in-glove, you'll pardon the pun, with widespread dissemination of disease.

So the "biological imperative" to spread seed ... well. Lemme just say that if that's the best alternative, more males should donate to sperm banks, and more women should have the chance to choose for themselves.

Does it break down notional intersections between mating, childrearing, and the social responsibility of the male to help raise (and support) his offspring? Yeah, but really, how many of the world's most financially successful men acknowledge having offspring with more than one (or perhaps a limited number; I'm not talking about NBA "success stories" here, because honestly -- Magic Johnson's braggadocio notwithstanding, if half the chicks he claims he did got pregnant, the world would be full, right now, of tall, talented basketball players who looked a hell of a lot more alike than they do!) woman in a lifetime? How you gonna prove they're lying? Well...DNA will do a lot towards that. Entitle the kids to full support, and a lot of this kind of crap would fall out of fashion nearly as fast as OperationRescue and its successors would.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

why dontcha? A fine test-tube procreation movie is Demolition Man, an anti-conformity/dictatorship fable well worth the time and I’m not a Stallone fan.

Successful python-tasering stories, and you knew there’d be some, are here and here. Sorry Leah, but with the current threat to American citizens from terrorist pythons being at Level Orange we’ll just all have to accept that tasers are our best defense.