An alligator is hit near a Union County lake. Then a 14-foot snake skin appears.

Burmese pythons have invaded Florida’s Everglades National Park.
Burmese pythons have invaded Florida’s Everglades National Park. Tim Chapman

Looks like the six-foot alligator that was hit by a car in Union County last month wasn’t the biggest creature to call Lake Stegall home.

Resident Doug Smith, who leases the lake near Marshville for fishing, says he found a snake skin near his dock Wednesday night that measured 13 feet 8 inches.

“This is probably why the alligator left,” Smith said by email.

bigsnake (2)
Union County resident Doug Smith said he measured this snake skin at 13 feet 8 inches. Courtesy of Doug Smith

The skin is most likely from a recently escaped or released pet, said Meagan Thomas, a herpetologist at Davidson College. North Carolina winters are too cold for snakes from tropical climates to survive, she said.

Because snake skins stretch as they are shed, Thomas added, the skin would likely be about 30 percent longer than the snake itself. That would make the actual snake about 9 feet 6 inches long.

Smith said he was cutting grass at the lake when he found the skin, evidently left by an invasive species. He judged it to be just hours old and was in an area that humans frequent.

The shape of the skin also indicated that the snake might have fed twice recently, Smith said.

“This beast clearly has no fear of humans, alligators, or anything,” he wrote.

Burmese pythons, many of them released by pet owners, began invading Florida’s Everglades National Park in the 1980s. By 2000, they had become the state’s most notorious invasive species and blamed for driving down Everglade’s population of raccoons, rabbits and other small mammals.

There’s evidence the giant constrictors are moving north, although Thomas said they’re not yet established in Georgia, let alone North Carolina. Utility crews found an 8-foot snake, believed to be a python, in Greenville, N.C., in 2015.

Three black snakes crawl on the wall at Dean Mullis' Richfield farm.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender