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A 2-year old toddler has been strangled to death by a python outside Orlando, in Sumter County, according to local sheriff's officials.
The incident occurred just after 10 a.m. when a man woke up and saw his python strangling his girlfriend's 2-year old at a home in the 1500 block of county Road 466 in Oxford, which is located west of Lady Lake.
The snake apparently escaped from its cage overnight and strangled the girl, who was also bitten on the forehead, Sumter County sheriff's deputies said. Charles Darnell, who owns the snake, stabbed the animal, which was wrapped around the girl's neck, and pulled the girl away before calling 911, deputies said.
Emergency workers could not revive the girl. The medical examiner was called to the Sumter County house, and an investigation into the death is ongoing.
Darnell also owns a boa constrictor, and the snakes have not been removed from the house, deputies said.
The 2-year-old girl's mother, Jaren Hare, was also inside the home at the time of the incident, deputies said.
Matt Harrison, a Critter Control employee who has worked with pythons for more than eight years, said the animals are extremely strong.
"A 12-foot snake is kind of like having a truck sitting on your chest. They have enough power not only to asphyxiate you, but to break bones as well," said Harrison, who added that stabbing a python would not force the animal to release its prey.
Harrison suggested throwing alcohol down the snake's throat or running hot water over it to get it to release its prey.
Harrison urged owners to be careful with pet pythons.
"Most (of) the time, as long as you're careful, you don't have anything to worry about, but occasionally, they can turn on their owners," Harrison said.
Harrison said attacks tend to be a feeding response, but he said it is important to keep cages secure and safe, especially when there are children in the house.
Harrison speculated that there are probably more pythons in Florida than anywhere else in the United States.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pythons are a nonnative species to Florida, although some Burmese pythons have been found in parts of Florida.
An invasion of giant Burmese pythons in South Florida that made national headlines last year was "rapidly expanding" and expected to reach Central Florida, according to a University of Florida study.
"There's no part of this state that you can point at and say that pythons couldn't live here," researcher Frank Mazzotti said. "They're capable of incredible movement -- and in a relatively short period."
Most of the pythons were brought over as pets and then turned loose in the wild, he said.
Credits: WKMG News 12