An 18-foot python escaped from its cage at a traveling circus and strangled an employee, said police in the southern Russian city of Stavropol.

The body of a woman who cares for animals at the small circus was found near the glass enclosure with signs of suffocation and remnants of snakeskin on her neck, the regional branch of the Interior Ministry said.

The 220-pound snake was found nearby and returned to its cage.

Authorities were conducting an autopsy on the body of the 62-year-old woman, the Interior Ministry branch said.