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Posted 2/14/2014

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By Erica Skolte

During a recent site visit, the words “situational awareness” took on a whole new meaning for Donna Zoeller, engineering technician in Operations Division, Multi-Projects Branch.

While conducting a routine site visit at the S-356 pump station on Tamiami Trail, Zoeller met an 11-foot long Burmese python face-to-face. Fortunately for her, Ruben Ramirez, founder of Florida Python Hunters, had just captured the invasive reptile nearby. Since it takes two hands to handle such a large, muscular, powerful snake, taking a “selfie” was out of the question.  So Ramirez enlisted Zoeller’s help. Zoeller, who was on site as part of her normal operations, maintenance, repair, replacement and rehabilitation duties, was happy that she had not run into the large reptile on her own.

Ramirez, an experienced animal hunter who holds permits to collect and handle many exotic invasive species, knows what he’s doing. He won two prizes in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2013 Python Challenge:  first place for the most snakes captured (18) and second place for the largest python, which was close to 11 feet long. The longest Burmese python caught in Florida, captured in 2012, measured 17.7 feet.

If you come across an exotic species while at work or at play, you can report the sighting by calling 888-IVE-GOT-1, through the free IveGot1 app, or online at www.ivegot1.org.

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