SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - WARNING: Video and audio in this story may be disturbing to some viewers.
Wildlife officers euthanize dozens of invasive snakes, but the owner of a snake at a reptile warehouse said some of those officers made a “snake mistake.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers went to the warehouse last week to euthanize 30 illegal pythons.
A bang caught on camera is the sound the owner of these snakes could not bear to hear, so he left the room without his cellphone so it could capture the officers on video as they went to work.
On the video, you can hear a penetrating bolt gun used to kill pythons with a shot to the head.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said snake breeder Chris Coffee.
Coffee is a partner in a reptile breeding company, and after a long legal battle with the FWC, he agreed to allow officers to visit his Broward County facility.
“So I basically had to do whatever they said,” he said. “I just wanted to comply and move on.”
Knowing that his pythons, now considered illegal, would likely be euthanized, he said he made very clear there was one snake they need not touch: a boa constrictor named Big Shirl, legal in Florida, and owned by his business partner.
“I showed them the label, what it says here. Both officers were here at the time,” said Coffee, “and they agreed, yes, that it was a boa constrictor. They would not harm the boa constrictor.”
But watch the video, and see the officers pull the boa out of the holding tank, and…
Seconds later, Coffee’s cellphone video shows shock on the officers’ faces as they realize they shot the boa — a pregnant boa that Coffee said was still moving.
They tell Coffee, who was in a back office.
“Oh, my God that guy is gonna [expletive] flip out!” Coffee is heard saying on the video. “What is wrong with you guys?” Coffee says. “Who did it? Why?”
They tell him it was a mistake.
“How? I reminded you ten times!” says Coffee. “You killed something that wasn’t illegal.”
“He called me at 4 o’clock crying and screaming, saying that they killed my snake,” said Bill McAdam.
McAdam said the snake and her babies were worth thousands of dollars, and he’s had her for years.
“It was heart wrenching,” said McAdam. “It was just as heart wrenching watching Chris’ snakes get killed, too, as well, and I just can’t believe that’s the only way they can go about doing this, but that’s one snake that had a name because she was special.”
“It’s just tremendously sad,” said Daniel Parker of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, “and those babies, they’re born alive. Boas don’t lay eggs like a lot of snakes. They bear live young, so those were pretty much fully formed babies.”
A statement from an FWC spokeswoman did not address the loss of the boa directly, but said Coffee “formally relinquished his reptiles to FWC and requested that the FWC officers and investigators euthanize the reptiles … The FWC Division of Law Enforcement is determining the full details…”
Coffee said he did not want them to euthanize all of these snakes, but he was in a hard place because of the illegality of the snakes in Florida, and as he’s working through all the issues with his permit with FWC, he says he would have thought these officers would have handled the boa constrictor with better awareness after being told.
Now, he as well as the owner of the snake are still waiting to hear from the FWC as to how this can be resolved.
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