Elusive ball python on the loose in Shirley

Posted Sept. 20, 2010, at 3:29 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.
Jarrod Stride found this python curled up in his garage in Shirley about a week ago. (Photo courtesy of Jarrod Stride)

GOES WITH  BOWLEY STORY: PSNAKES
Jarrod Stride found this python curled up in his garage in Shirley about a week ago. (Photo courtesy of Jarrod Stride) GOES WITH BOWLEY STORY: PSNAKES

SHIRLEY, Maine — It still gives Liz Palmer the chills to recall the size of the snake she and her boyfriend found earlier this month coiled in a corner of their garage.

Palmer said Monday that she and her boyfriend, Jarrod Stride, had been working in their garage when her dog CC, a Jack Russell terrier, started barking furiously at something in the corner behind some tools.

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“What is she doing?” Stride asked Palmer before Stride pulled out his compressor and saw the snake.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, ball python or boa constrictor,’” Palmer said.

Surprised by the discovery, Stride carefully picked the snake up with a shovel and put it into a bucket outside, Palmer said. When Stride went back inside the garage to find a cover for the bucket, the 5-foot snake made its escape.

Stride described the snake as “three super-sized Slim Jims,” Palmer said. “You could tell it was someone’s pet” because it was fairly healthy looking.

Palmer, resident Charles Baker and others along North Road believe a former resident who owned two pythons and an albino corn snake released the three snakes before he left the area. He reportedly told a resident that he had the corn snake with him, he gave one of the ball pythons away and the other died, Baker said.

Baker said the smaller of the two pythons, which was about 3½ feet long, reportedly was found by a resident and was killed earlier this month. Palmer said she had heard that the corn snake also had been found dead.

Ball pythons are named so because of their tendency to curl into a ball when frightened or stressed, according to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Pythons, by definition, squeeze their prey.

Wardens say it isn’t likely that the former pet snake survived recent cold mornings. However, the snake could have sought shelter in a cellar, garage or other building that might protect it from the cold.

“These snakes have been seen on [North Road] … and they’ve been seen about 100 yards from where this guy lived,” Baker said Monday. While he declined to name the person who owned the snakes, Baker said he believed it was the same snake that got loose at Greenville High School in 2009 and later was found coiled inside an old computer printer at the school. At that time, a school official and the police who handled the snake incident reported that it was a boa constrictor when, in fact, it was a ball python.

A ball python could bite a person if provoked, but the greater threat would be to smaller animals such as squirrels, birds and rodents, according to Warden Lt. Kevin Adam of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Adams confirmed Monday that a report was made about a snake, but the warden who tried to find the animal could not. He said that while the snake is a legal pet in Maine, its release into the wild is a violation of Maine law and a Class E crime. No imported non-native animals can be released into the wild without a permit from the DIF&W, and some species, such as the missing python, would not gain a permit, he said. If convicted, the former owner could face a fine of about $100, he said. Adam said the department is following up on information provided by North Road residents.

Since residents have been unsuccessful in finding the snake, which Baker said is as big around as an arm, he wanted to warn others who may not have heard about it to be cautious.

“If somebody happened to see that snake in the grass underneath their apple tree, they’d have a heart attack,” Baker said. “My wife, Debbie, is scared to death of snakes, and there are other people in town who haven’t slept for weeks.”

Palmer said she doesn’t particularly like snakes, but felt sorry for the former pets. “Why would someone let them go when they know they will die.” Just the same, she said she mowed the lawn “wicked short” so she could see if the “big one” returns.

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