PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -

Police have captured a 12-foot, 120-pound Burmese python they believe was gobbling up neighborhood cats.

Sgt. Frank Sabol said an officer responded to a Port St. Lucie neighborhood Friday morning after residents said they'd seen a large snake.

The Palm Beach Post reports he extricated the snake from waist-high brush with the help of fellow officers. A dead cat was found in a nearby empty lot.

Researchers believe pythons are decimating populations of native mammals in the Everglades. Many are believed to have been pets that were dumped once they grew too big; others likely escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew and have been reproducing rapidly.

Florida now prohibits owning or selling pythons for use as pets. Federal law bans importation and interstate sale of the species.