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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By CRAIG PITTMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 26, 2008
For years, Everglades National Park rangers have been battling exotic pythons, trying to rid the park of the big, aggressive species that is native to Burma, not Florida.
Last week the fight got really nasty.
Visitors driving along the main road spotted a 6-foot python and several stopped to look at it.
"The python felt somewhat cornered," said park biologist Skip Snow.
So it sought refuge - by slithering up into the engine compartment of tourist Ron DeLong's Ford Explorer.
"DeLong attempted to grab the python with the curved end of his walking cane but failed as the snake slithered through," ranger Willie Lopez wrote in his report on the Jan. 15 incident.
With the snake now wrapped around his engine, DeLong drove 15 miles to the park's main entrance to get help.
Lopez, Snow, biologist Alex Wolf and firefighter Henry Delvalle opened the hood and tried to yank the snake out, but the python just gripped the engine more tightly.
After some discussion, "it was decided to Taser the snake in hopes that it would loosen its grip around the vehicle," Lopez wrote. "Unfortunately, this tactic proved unsuccessful as the python began to contract and excrete bodily fluids all over the four responders."
This prompted a reassessment of the situation.
They decided to attack the problem from below, disassembling "parts of the vehicle undercarriage where access to the python's head was attained." They slapped some duct tape on its mouth and uncoiled the snake from the engine, then killed it.
Then they put the car back together, "fortunately with no parts to spare," Lopez wrote, and took the snake back to a lab for study.