By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The evidence is circumstantial but the case looks strong. Multiple cats missing without a trace, a freshly killed body, and one well-fed, 120-pound Burmese python lurking in the Florida underbrush.
Four Port St. Lucie police officers on Friday captured the 12-foot-long snake, which they believe is the culprit in the disappearance of a slew of neighborhood pets over the past nine months.
"It's the answer to so many questions," said Pamela Dinola, who lost five of her seven cats.
Pythons are an exotic species and growing nuisance in Florida where they have no natural predator and feed on native wildlife, most notably in the Florida Everglades. Occasionally a snake finds its way into populated areas.
Dinola said she suspected raccoons when her first cat disappeared in November.
"But they kept disappearing over a matter of months," Dinola said.
On Friday, Dinola said she spotted the python wrapped around a neighbor's cat.
An officer familiar with snakes believes the python was let loose by a pet owner well before it reached its current size, a typical scenario. State wildlife officials were looking for the snake's owner, said Frank Sabol, a spokesman for the Port St. Lucie police department.
Meanwhile, police consider the case of the missing cats closed.
"It's more than speculative to say that the python has been (responsible). It's more probable than not," Sabol said.
(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)
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