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Man meets two pythons on way to get takeout

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4 days ago Eric Staats and Jigsha Desai
Kevin Dinger with the two pythons that were captured in Lely on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Dinger spotted a python while driving on Collier Boulevard and contacted law enforcement, who captured the two snakes. © Kevin Dinger Jr. Kevin Dinger with the two pythons that were captured in Lely on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Dinger spotted a python while driving on Collier Boulevard and contacted law enforcement, who captured the two snakes.

NAPLES, Fla. — An hungry man's drive to pick up takeout Tuesday night came with not one but two pythons on the side

Kevin Dinger Jr., 31, of East Naples saw the first non-native invader as his girlfriend, Alysa Barry, 26, was turning right off Collier Boulevard north of U.S. 41 on the way to Texas Roadhouse.

They almost ran over what they thought was a branch in the turn lane. Then they noticed it moving.

Dinger jumped out of the Hummer and grabbed the giant snake's tail before it could slither away, but the snake swung its head around as if to bite. Dinger let go.

"I was like, 'All right man, you can do whatever you want to do. You're a little bigger than me so I don't want to mess with you right now,'" Dinger said.

Instead, he called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation and then 911 for help. A sheriff's deputy arrived within minutes, with two more deputies on the way.

The chances of finding a python in the daylight are not good, given their ability to blend in with grass and brush, but now it was dark, about 6:30 p.m. ET.

One deputy used a thermal imaging camera to try to find the python but only found a few mice scurrying around, Dinger said.

Deputy Eric Bramblet, who also hunts pythons for the South Florida Water Management District, was walking back to his car as the search was winding down when he felt something moving under his feet.

"I moved the grass and out pops a python," Bramblet said.

One down.

Deputies tried to convince Dinger that the snake, about 6 feet long, was the same one he had seen on Collier Boulevard. Dinger insisted it wasn't. His snake was much larger, maybe 10 or 12 feet long, he said.

"That was a baby compared to the other one," Dinger said.

He kept looking and eventually was proved right, finding the larger python he had already gotten his hands on once.

Deputies cut the spinal cords of both snakes to kill them, and Bramblet said he planned to keep the carcasses and tan their skins.

"The fact that a 10-foot snake is hanging out right there is insane," Dinger said.

It might be insane, but it will be increasingly common as pythons tighten their grip on South Florida despite efforts to stop their damaging spread through the Everglades, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist Ian Bartoszek said.

"We're going to be seeing a lot more of this in Collier County to be sure," he said.

Bartoszek, who applauded Dinger's quick action when he saw the first python, said it helps to have people on the lookout for pythons as breeding season ramps up.

"It's going to be pretty snake-active for the next several months," he said.

Pythons creeping out of the woods and into the urban area is not cause for alarm but for vigilance, Bartoszek said.

He said sightings should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (483-4681) or on the I've Got 1 phone app.

Bartoszek also cautioned against mistaking smaller native snakes for a python, adding that small pythons are rarely ever found.

As for Dinger, who lives on a farm off Six L's Farm Road, he said corralling pythons isn't exactly his thing.

"I saw that one, and that thing was huge," he said.

His grilled chicken salad could wait.

Follow Eric Staats and Jigsha Desai on Twitter: @NDN_EStaats and @jigsha

 

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