Anaconda captured in Florida park

A 12-foot green anaconda has been captured at a Florida park, where it apparently had been feasting on waterfowl for months.

The giant snake, a native of the Amazon, was spotted and captured Jan. 13 at East Lake Fish Camp by an Osceola County sheriff’s mounted patrol unit.

Toni Englert, who keeps horses at the park’s stable, witnessed the capture.

“The officers called me over and said, ‘Toni, I think we know what happened to the ducks,’ ” Englert said.

Englert had pointed out to deputies, who train at the park, that the ducks and geese were disappearing. She said she had assumed an alligator was responsible.

“We would only find feathers all over the place,” she said.

Englert said the snake was discovered in a drainpipe leading to a pond, which is probably where it eluded discovery -- until the recent cold weather made it sluggish.

“I looked and saw the snake curled up inside the pipe,” Englert said. “It was barely moving.”

Lt. Rick Brown of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission thinks it’s the first time an anaconda has been caught in the wild in the state. Green anacondas, the largest snakes on record, can reach 30 feet. They are nonvenomous constrictors.

“They are in the same category of concern as the Burmese pythons,” Brown said. “Someone purchased this at a time it was no bigger than a couple of fingers, and when it got big, released it.”

Until early 2008, anyone could purchase exotic reptiles from Florida pet shops. The rules were tightened because the foreign species were being dumped into the wild and becoming a menace to native flora and fauna. A special permit is now required to own the reptiles.

The captured anaconda was taken to Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, Fla.