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Python Strangles 2-Year-Old To Death

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(AP) -- A 2-year-old girl was strangled by a 12-foot Burmese python Wednesday inside a central Florida home, authorities said.

The snake was a family pet, not one of a fast-growing population of nonnative pythons that has been spreading in the wild in southern Florida.

Lt. Steve Binegar, of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, said the toddler was strangled by the snake in the town of Oxford, about 50 miles northwest of Orlando. Pythons can kill by wrapping themselves around a human. Paramedics said the girl was dead when they arrived at about 10 a.m. EDT. Authorities did not release the girl's name.

Sheriff's officials told the Orlando Sentinel that the snake broke out of a glass aquarium overnight, went to the girl's bedroom and attacked her. The owner found the snake wrapped around the girl and stabbed it while others called 911. It wasn't immediately known if the snake was killed. The newspaper said the snake slithered away and was missing.

Jorge Pino, a spokesman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said that pythons are not native to Florida and can easily grow to 10 or 12 feet long. He also said owners need a license to possess a python in the state.

Some owners have freed pythons into the wild and a population of them has taken hold in the Everglades. One killed an alligator and then exploded when it tried to eat it. Scientists also speculate a bevy of Burmese pythons escaped in 1992 from pet shops battered by Hurricane Andrew and have been reproducing since.

''It's becoming more and more of a problem, perhaps no fault of the animal, more a fault of the human,'' Pino said. ''People purchase these animals when they're small. When they grow, they either can't control them or release them.''

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