TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s a dinner date Abby Buffington and her husband, John, will never forget. They never expected to have a close encounter this up close and personal. Now, they have one heck of a story to tell about the night they came across one creepy creature.
Buffington giggled as she recalled the moment.
“A python,” she laughed. “Yep, you just don’t think you’re going to hit that on the way to Olive Garden!”
The Mississippi newlyweds have been in Tampa Bay less than a year. In that time, they’ve seen plenty of gators. But, a python, just seconds away from their Westchase home? It made their skin crawl.
“My mouth dropped, it was still moving a little bit at first, of course. It kind of curled itself in. I guess I was like, in shock,” Buffington told 8 On Your Side during an exclusive interview Tuesday.
The Tampa make-up artist and her husband came into contact with the slithering stranger as they drove to dinner recently. As they passed a picturesque pond full of ducks, they heard a thud. They thought they hit a small animal. They had no idea, as they stepped out of the car, they were seconds away from picking up a python in the road.
“All you hear about is gators here, then you hit a python that’s four feet long and when you hold it up, it’s as tall as you are. I mean, it was crazy, what do you say to that,” she said, smiling.
Well, turns out, the answer was easy. Buffington shared her shock with the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“People don’t call people snakes for no reason, they’re creepy,” she said.
Buffington says she made an official report with the sheriff’s office, then utilized an online FWC tool to report the snake sighting, which agency spokesperson Melody Kilborn says helps them a great deal.
Kilborn says FWC reviewed Buffington’s information and confirmed to 8 on your Side that the snake sighting was reported to the FWC on August 12.
The snake has been confirmed to be a ball python by the nonnative biologists who looked over the photos. According to the report, this sighting occurred on July 20.
FWC biologists also believe that this is likely an escaped or released pet.
According to FWC, ball pythons are one of the most popular nonnative snakes in the pet trade. FWC also released the following details to provide residents with background information.
Although ball pythons have been found in the wild in Florida since 1995, there are no known reproducing populations. Ball pythons are considered an invasive species, due to their ability to negatively impact native species in the wild.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages those that choose to have exotic pets to be responsible. The FWC created the Exotic Pet Amnesty Program in an effort to reduce the number of nonnative species that are released into the wild by pet owners who can no longer care for or no longer wish to keep their exotic pet.
One of the goals of the FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program is to foster responsible exotic pet ownerships through outreach and education at various Exotic Pet Amnesty Day events statewide.
The public can report nonnative species sightings and view reported sightings on the EDDMapS site.
Additional, nonnative species information can be found here.