Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 9th, 2010
A dead Gaboon viper is displayed on the trunk of a Saco police car. The Maine Warden Service is trying to identify the snake’s owner. Courtesy photo.
The Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), a venomous viper species known from the rainforests and savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa, is also referred to as the butterfly adder, forest puff adder, and/or swampjack. I wonder if the Maine Warden Service, after their investigations are complete, would like to donate the body for exhibition to the International Cryptozoology Museum, for public education concerning the dangers of keeping snakes like this in captivity? A display could tell of what a deadly mistake it is to release any such species into the wild.
Maine’s Portland Press Herald has this story in today’s March 9, 2010 edition:
Deadly African snake turns up on Saco trail
Fortunately for the finder, the illegal-to-own, highly poisonous Gaboon viper had died from the cold.
By David Hench
Authorities are trying to learn how a deadly – and illegal – Gaboon viper came to be slithering along the wooded trails behind Cinemagic in Saco.
Like some eerie escapee from “Avatar,” playing inside the theater, the colorful viper stretched almost 5 feet and lay in the trail, much as the snakes do in their native sub-Saharan Africa as they lie in wait for prey.
But this one was dead, after succumbing to the cold of even a mild Maine winter night. The vipers prefer temperatures above 70 degrees; the temperature Sunday night dropped below freezing.
The snake was discovered Monday [March 8, 2010] by someone who was walking along one of the trails behind the theater, on the edge of woods that stretch out extensively to the east of Route 1.
The person didn’t handle the snake, but took a cell phone picture and then contacted police, who called in the Maine Warden Service.
“It appears it had been released alive, probably last night,” said Sgt. Tim Spahr of the Maine Warden Service.
“Somebody, in their mind, was releasing it into the wild,” Spahr said, noting that there are retention ponds in the woods, which might have seemed like good habitat.
The snake’s release could land the owner in hot water.
“They’re not legal in Maine. You could not get a permit for that,” Spahr said. “I don’t even know if they would be legal in the U.S.”
He said such a snake would probably have to be purchased on the black market – or on the Internet.
“I also think if you’re releasing something that is potentially dangerous or fatal to somebody, we would probably talk to the District Attorney’s Office about other charges related to recklessness,” Spahr said.
The warden service is investigating to determine who owned the snake, although Spahr would not elaborate.
He said wardens have encountered other exotic snakes, such as cobras and pit vipers, but never this species.
Read the complete article at the Press Herald site.
Meanwhile, half a world away, in Australia, the eighth person in six days has been bitten by deadly snakes. On March 9, 2010, an “unidentified snake sank its fangs into [a] woman’s foot, leaving two puncture wounds, in the lower Blue Mountains this afternoon…The attack came after a 35-year-old male snake handler was bitten on the nose and forehead by a deadly brown snake in the NSW Hunter Valley earlier today.”
Elsewhere, on “March 4 a two-year-old girl was bitten by a potentially deadly red bellied black snake in Badgerys Creek, in Sydney’s west. Five other people were bitten in various locations in NSW on March 7.”
Thanks to Chris for the news tip from Australia on the snake attacks there.