Residents of Warren County, Missouri, finally know why small animals have been disappearing and dogs have been barking at odd times in the night.
The likely culprit -- a monstrous 14-foot-7-inch Burmese Python weighing in at 160 pounds -- was found by local resident Pauline Horstdaniel in her yard, local station KTVI reports. Her dog's panicked barking at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday tipped her off, she told the station. (For perspective, her dog is a Saint Bernard mix, a large breed not typically preyed upon by snakes that swallow animals whole.)
"I was terrified," Horstdaniel recalled to KTVI. “I got my husband out of bed. He’s out there in his underwear with his gun.”
A call to a local snake expert proved fruitless, as he offered to catch the python -- but only when he got back into town days later.
Fearing the handgun they owned wasn't big enough for the job, they called neighbor Clayton Dement, who owned a shotgun and killed the snake with two shots to the head.
"I had every intention of trying to catch it, until I saw it. And then I thought, ‘Nope, I’m not playing with that,’" Dement told radio hosts on St. Louis' The Ryan Kelley Morning After show on Wednesday.
Dement expressed regret for having had to kill the animal he described as "a monster," saying he wished whoever dumped the exotic pet had taken responsibility for it and "gone through the proper channels," perhaps handing it off to a zoo.
Residents are concerned that whoever released the python may have left more snakes in the area, he added -- meaning locals won't feel completely safe until winter.