Saturday, August 01, 2009

The "biggest python?"

Click image to enlarge.

There it was.

Right there on the front page of the Miami Herald today.

Biggest python yet is bagged -- a 17-footer

The story went on to say that the snake "turned out to be one the biggest Burmese python found yet roaming free in Florida."

But what the story neglected to mention is that it wasn't the largest python ever captured in South Florida.

Not by a long shot.

Twenty years ago this month, Miami urban wildlife trapper Todd Hardwick made headlines around the world with his capture of a 250 lb., 20 ft.-long reticulated python from under a house in Ft. Lauderdale. (see photo above)

Friday, August 18, 1989

by RACHEL JONES Herald Staff Writer

David Spalding spotted the 20-foot-long snake in his Fort Lauderdale backyard a month ago, calmly feasting on a raccoon.

On Thursday, after two days of planning, plotting, digging and prodding, a courageous crew of seven men held a wriggling, writhing, 250-pound, reticulated python that had made its home under Spalding's house on Northeast 19th Street.

It's called reticulated because of its diamond-shaped, net- like markings. The reptile seemed gigantic, as thick through the middle as a child.

The Spalding family had little to say about the matter, which made the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw on Thursday evening.

"You can understand," David Spalding said, "this whole thing has us very upset."

In the weeks after spotting the python, Spalding frantically made calls trying to find someone to help him remove it from his property. He called a snake museum, a biologist, a herpetologist and the Discovery Center.

He finally found Todd Hardwick , who runs Pesky Critters, a Dade business specializing in removing animals. A recent job involved moving a bull from a runway at the Opa-locka Airport, he said.

"We'll remove everything but dogs and cats," said Hardwick , a small, wiry man with a Bowie knife hanging from his belt. "There's not anything too unusual for us."

The python, 12 inches in diameter, might have been released by someone who once owned it as a pet, Hardwick said. "It's common for exotic snakes to be released in South Florida."

Reticulated pythons are native to southeast Asia, where they nest on riverbanks and wait for unsuspecting prey. They aren't poisonous -- they kill by squeezing their victims to death.

The python grew fat on a diet of raccoons and squirrels preyed upon in nearby Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area. It could tackle anything up to 75 pounds, he said.

Removing the snake was tricky because of its size and location. It had nested in an 18-inch-high crawl space under the Spaldings' living room.

Hardwick was ready with a python-catching kit: a noose, a hypodermic syringe filled with a tranquilizer and a pointed metal "snake stick" used to hold down the snake once it was located.

Then it was a matter of prodding the snake out. By Thursday afternoon, the men poked the snake through a tunnel in the front of the house.

Catching the python turned into a neighborhood event as residents and curious onlookers piled into the Spaldings' front yard.

"I've got two little dogs. I've been afraid to let them out," said Claire Elhatton, who lives next door.

"Piece of cake," Hardwick said as they folded the snake and placed it into a sleeping bag. He planned to keep it overnight for observation and then decide what to do with it.

"It's the biggest one we've ever trapped."
Oh, and one more thing. Hardwick caught his python without shooting it!


  1. I remember this event when I lived and worked in Homestead Fla. I Worked for Environmental Care (which is now Valley Crest)at Keys Gate community. We used to call Todd at Pesky Critters ( who at the time only had two trucks & like four helpers) to round up aggressive mating water moccassins & alligstors all over the not yet completed development we worked at. I remember he and his crew had caught a massive python under a mans trailer home. Neighborhood kids had mentioned to their parents for months about the monster living under a mans trailer home. Locals shrugged off kids claims as fantasy. Apparently the snake had been living primarily off of the neighborhood pets for years. I also remember that the snake appeared on the Tonight Show several days later with Johnny Carson. It took six men to handle the snake of which they dropped on stage briefly, freightening onlookers before recovering control. I have tirelessly sought the episode of this show and oddly enough have not been sble to find it.

  2. There was a 18' plus Burmese python caught two years before in North Miami by Reptile Rescue. So 17 isn't close to a record.
    Also you can not accurately measure a dead snake as whit the muscles relaxed they are much longer. As much as 25% longer.

  3. I remember seeing this on CNN back in '89. I would love to see the video again but haven't been able to find it.
    Does anyone know how or where I'd go to look? I've tried CNN Archives but there was nothing there.
    Might try again and change my search terms.


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