Friday, July 8, 2011

Is anyone missing a python?

Hailey police deliver 20-inch serpent to Sawtooth Animal Clinic


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

This 20-inch ball python was found in Hailey on Monday, July 4, and is now being kept at the Sawtooth Animal Clinic in Bellevue. Clinic staff and the Hailey Police Department are anxious to reunite the lost serpent with its owner. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Sawtooth Animal Clinic has an unusual guest this week—a 20-inch ball python—delivered to its door courtesy of the Hailey Police Department.

"He's very sweet," said Pam Roan, a certified veterinarian technician at the clinic in Bellevue. "He's probably somebody's pet. He's scared. He's never completely relaxed. He just shrinks into a ball."

Shrinking into a ball is a common characteristic of Python regius, hence the common name ball python.

"I don't know why we have it here," said veterinarian Laurie Breedveld. "I guess they just didn't know what to do with it. Hopefully he belongs to a nice little boy or girl and he just escaped."

The python was brought to the clinic around midnight on Monday, July 4. It was taken into custody that night from a home on South River Street.

Sgt. Derek Stewart, one of three Hailey officers who responded to the call, said the home tenants had only recently moved in. Much to their surprise, they discovered the python trapped in a small patio area between a screen door and a main door.

"They weren't too excited about it—they didn't know what to do," Stewart said.

Along with Stewart were Patrolmen Shane Manning and Kenny McClure.

"Officer McClure just went in there and caught it and that was the end of it," Stewart said. "He just went in and grabbed it behind the neck area and walked it out of the house."

Once apprehended, the python was placed in a bag and taken to police headquarters.

"When we got to the office we put it in a box and got ahold of the animal clinic and took it down there," Stewart said.

In his 10 years as a police officer, Stewart said it's the first time he's had to deal with a python.

"We just dealt with it and got it over with," he said. "Normally we don't send three officers to an animal complaint, but normally you don't deal with a snake."

Stewart surmised that the python either escaped from its owner or was left at the home by the previous tenant.

"He looks healthy," said Breedveld, who noted that she has treated pet snakes before at the clinic. "This is probably the first found snake we've had in."

Ball pythons are not native to the United States, but come from Africa. They are the smallest species of python, rarely growing over 4 feet in length, but have been known to reach 6 feet.

They are generally considered good natured and one of the better large snake species to keep as a pet. They are easily bred in captivity.

Ball pythons are constrictors that squeeze prey to death and then swallow it whole. In the wild, their favorite prey are rats, shrews and mice.

"He does have a couple of lumps, so he's just recently eaten, which was one of our concerns" Roan said.

The snake was identified as a ball python by clinic receptionist Dee Weaver.

"I've seen enough of them," she said.

Not a snake fancier herself, Weaver said she bought a small red-tail boa, about 8 inches in length, for her husband 13 years ago. The snake is now 6 feet long, she said.

Breedveld said the clinic won't charge for babysitting the snake.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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