August 14, 2009

Fla. trapper admits python catch was hoax

A trapper in Manatee County, Fla., says he staged last month's catch of a 14-foot python near an area day-care center.

Trapper Justin Matthews admitted he attempted to alert the general public to the problem of wild pythons in Florida by releasing the large snake near a day care in Bradenton, Fla., so he could capture the animal, Bay News 9 reported Thursday.

The cable news station in St. Petersburg, Fla., said the python used by Matthews in July was purchased at business in Tampa, Fla., for $200.

I do want to apologize to anybody that thinks this was wrong, what I did, Matthews said. To me, I'll never do it again but as is turns out, like I say, I'm getting more calls, and I did raise awareness by doing this.

Matthews pointed out four snakes have been turned in by their owners since the incident. The trapper said the reptiles could potentially have been released into the wild.

Bay News 9 said Florida Fish and Wildlife had been investigating Matthews since the python's original owner, Vernon Yates, contacted the state agency after recognizing the snake from news reports.