Investigators estimated the snake weighs more than 100 pounds
Acting on a tip that a Crestview resident had a “large snake” that had escaped before, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators went to the man’s home Wednesday and were amazed to find an uncaged, 11-foot-long, albino Burmese python crawling in the man’s home.
Lemuel A. DeJesus (DOB 10/03/83), 624 E. Williams Ave., acknowledged to investigators he had a snake in the home but refused to cooperate and was jailed, according to FWC Investigator Jerry Shores. DeJesus was charged with possession of a reptile of concern without a permit, housing a reptile of concern in an unsafe manner, and resisting arrest without violence.
All three charges are second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by fines of up to $500 and a maximum 60-day jail sentence.
“There was no sign of a cage for the snake in the home, but the really shocking thing is there were mattresses on the floor along with the clothing of small children,” Shores said. “There weren’t any children in the home when we were there, but it was obvious children were in and out of the house. With a snake that size, that’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”
Shores said the python was seized and is being held at an undisclosed location until DeJesus appears before an Okaloosa County judge. His first appearance is set for Nov.17.
While most of the news in the past few months has been about the spread of Burmese pythons in the wild in South Florida and the recent strangulation death of a 2-year-old Sumter County child in her own bed by the family snake, there have been few reported python incidents in the Florida Panhandle, until now.
Just two weeks ago, Shores said, charges were filed with the State Attorney’s office against a Wewahitchka man for numerous reptile violations after his 11-foot-long Burmese python escaped and was killed in a neighbor’s chicken coop.
John Robert Beatty (DOB 12/26/82), a Gulf County corrections officer, had no cage for his snake and let it freely crawl about his apartment at 329 Chipola Ave. in Wewahitchka.
Under captive wildlife rules, anyone possessing one of the nonnative reptiles classified as reptiles of concern – including Burmese pythons, amethystine pythons, reticulated pythons, African rock pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards – must obtain a $100 reptile of concern permit and adhere to caging requirements based on the size of the reptile. They also must keep a written and approved contingency plan in case of escape or natural disaster.
The rules for captive wildlife went into effect in January 2008. People who owned reptiles of concern prior to the effective date are still required to purchase the reptile of concern permit.
The FWC hosts Pet Amnesty Days several times a year. At these events, people who can no longer keep nonnatives as pets can turn them over to the FWC for placement. The next Pet Amnesty Day will be held at Busch Gardens in Tampa on Nov. 7.
For more information on Burmese pythons and other reptiles of concern, visit “Burmese pythons”. To report wildlife law violations, call the toll-free Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.