Poisonous African viper found behind Maine theater

Posted March 09, 2010, at 10:43 a.m.

SACO, Maine — A poisonous 5-foot-long viper from Africa was found stretched dead across a rock in a wooded area behind a movie theater, and the Maine Warden Service said Tuesday it was searching for the person who released the reptile.

A woman walking with her dog discovered the Gaboon viper Monday on a trail behind the Cinemagic and IMAX theater complex on busy U.S. 1, Sgt. Tim Spahr. The snake was released Sunday and succumbed to low temperatures, which dipped to freezing overnight, he said.

It’s illegal to possess exotic snakes in Maine. Wardens will consult the district attorney to determine what charges might be appropriate, Spahr said.

“In my 13 years as a game warden, this is the weirdest that I’ve actually dealt with,” Spahr said Tuesday. “This is an incredibly dangerous species, a life-threatening species. And people walk up and down these trails.”

Gaboon vipers favor the warmer climates of central, west and east Africa. They’re known for their heft — they can weigh as much as 18 pounds — and their long fangs.