Picture circulates of 18-foot python caught in Collier County

CREATED Jan. 15, 2014

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AVE MARIA, Fla. -- A picture circulating on social media of an 18-foot python caught in Collier County has many Fox 4 viewers talking, wondering whether it's real or a hoax.  

According to the user who posted the picture, a friend discovered the 18-foot, 300 pound burmese python about three miles from Ave Maria University. On Wednesday, the picture had been shared more than 6,000 times. 

Fox 4 took the picture to wildlife expert Steve Masek at the Calusa Nature Center.  Masek said he believed the photo was real because a python of that size could be found in Collier County.

"For a snake to get that big and to be doing that well, that is a healthy burmese python... or was," he said. 

Masek said he wished the python hadn't been killed so he could care for it at the Calusa Nature Center.  

A snake of this size, while possible, is not common in Southwest Florida.  It's especially rare to see one during the winter because most are living in covered areas like underneath a boat or shed to stay warm. 

Masek said the snake could have escaped into the wild during the 2005 hurricane season when strong winds knocked down walls of breeding centers and zoos, setting some animals free. 

"A snake that was this big and happened to get flushed out in a hurricane into the wild and was strong enough to make it, in a couple years, he could get that big," Masek said. 

FWC did not have a report relating to the photo and could not confirm it.  However, officials encourage anyone who comes across a python-- of any size-- to report it by calling 1-888-483-4861 or going online to www.IveGot1.org.