On a muggy day about 10 years ago in the Florida Everglades, Jack Shealy was riding his bike along a dirt road leading into the Trail Lakes Campground, where he has worked for decades. Like any good gladesman, Shealy has a substantial portion of his brain wired to recognize snakes in places where the rest of us would see only leaves and shadows. He skidded to a stop at the sight of a serpentine form stretched out in the sun.
This particular snake was not especially large—only about a meter in length. Yet the color was something different. Greenish brown with dark, oval spots. This was not a snake that belonged in the Everglades. Shealy did something that comes naturally to the family. (His nephew Jack M. Shealy recently became notorious for jumping into the water to wrestle an invasive Burmese python.) He jumped off of the bike and captured the angry snake by hand.
Trail Lakes Campground just happened to have a herpetologist on staff. Rick Scholle, who runs the campground’s roadside zoo, examined the snake and realized that he was looking at a juvenile green anaconda. A nonvenomous constrictor native to South America, the green anaconda is the biggest, heaviest species of snake in the world. It definitely does not belong in the Florida Everglades.