A photo sent to the Miami Herald by a reader appears to show a coyote with a large snake wrapped around its neck.
William James, 34, of Boynton Beach, said he took the photo Tuesday when he and his family pulled over at a rest stop at mile marker 63 on Alligator Alley. With his wife and year-old baby in tow, James said he started down the trail. About 20 minutes into the walk, James said he heard rustling in nearby shrubs, expected to see a wild hog and instead encountered the coyote with what he thought was a Burmese python wrapped around its neck.
“It’s probably not something that’s not uncommon since there’s such a snake problem,” said James.
But state wildlife officials are skeptical, pointing out that boa constrictors are far more rare in the wild than Burmese pythons, the exotic snake that has spread across South Florida, wiping out populations of small mammals.
“After reviewing the image, we believe that it may have been altered,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson said in an email. “While it is possible that boas and pythons eat canines, we do not have an established population of boas in this area.”
James, who delivers appliances, said he watched the snake release its grip from the coyote, then try to bite the animal’s back before his wife “freaked out” and demanded they return to the car. He said he had time to take only the one shot.
“I only got one picture,” James said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a wild animal, but you’re lucky if you have only a moment.”
James’ photo joins a recent batch of weird animal photos coming from Florida and greeted with a good deal of skepticism. In April, a Fort Pierce man emailed a picture he said he’d taken of a bobcat carrying a shark out of the surf near Sebastian Inlet. The picture quickly went viral, launching a furious debate over whether it was real or Photoshopped.
University of Florida wildlife biologist Frank Mazzotti, who looked at a copy of the picture sent by the Herald, correctly identified the snake as a boa constrictor. Constrictors can eat canines and vice versa, he said. But he could not vouch for the authenticity of the picture.
The Burmese python is the target subject of Florida’s on-going Python Challenge, a hunt hosted by the FWC, which is entering its second week. As of Tuesday, 61 Burmese pythons had been captured.