What do you do when you find a 12-foot Burmese python nestled in a pile of storm debris?
First you scream and then turn it into a science lesson, according to Coconut Grove resident Valerie Ricordi.
Ricordi was standing with her 24-year-old son and mother-in-law Tuesday when workers came to remove the ever-growing stack of branches and leaves left behind by Hurricane Irma.
As the bulldozer removed the load, the snake slithered out, Ricordi said.
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“It was terrifying,” she said. “Who knows what could have happened.”
The driver tried to pick up the invasive Burmese python with the bulldozer, but killed it, Ricordi said.
Not knowing what to do, Ricordi called her sister, a science teacher.
Kate Thome, a middle-school science teacher at a Miami-Dade privates school, said she came right over to see it.
“It was a surprise that it came into the Grove,” she said.
Ricordi was told the snake likely came through Biscayne Bay, a product of Irma’s storm surge. The thought, she said, is terrifying.
UF biologist Frank Mazzotti, who heads a team of researchers investigating pythons and other wildlife, said its completely feasible that snake make its way through the canals from the Everglades.
“Piles of debris are attractive to invasive species,” he said.
Ricordi called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to see what she should do with the giant snake carcass.
FWC told her told her to bag and dump it.
But she got another idea. She called a friend who deals with rare snakes and he recommended a taxidermist. She said the snake will be skinned and its hide will be tanned.
Thome said she can’t wait to use it in her classroom as a lesson about invasive species.
For now, the snake is in a bag in Ricordi’s refrigerator in the garage.