Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 4th, 2009
It seems that you can’t get through the summers in North America anymore without hearing about the crazy crocs in the sewers, city park ponds, and small lakes. Then along comes “Shark Week” on television – actually this week – and someone tends to report a shark here or there off the coast.
As I hinted earlier this year, for the summer of 2009, we may have to add a higher than normal number of giant snake stories into the mix.
Certainly, this year’s sightings in Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and other locations seem to be driving home that possibility. When you start having pythons showing up in recycling centers, as occurred in Maine (see here and here), certainly some kind of trend seems in the works. There’s also a repeating cycle even in locations, dates, and strangely enough, the same kind of snakes.
In June of 2007, in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a nine-foot albino python was caught near where 2009′s encounters are occurring.
On Friday, July 10, 2009, a woman was taking a stroll in a trailer park on West Main Street in Annville Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, when she found the 10-foot-long albino Burmese python (below). The owner was unknown, but latter a local man admitted releasing two pythons because he couldn’t care for them any longer. He has been charged with cruelty to animals and introduction of non-native species into the wild.
Photos courtesy of Jesse Rothacker, Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary.
The 2009 killing of a child in Florida by another albino python put an exclamation mark on such reports. There seems little doubt that the feral large exotic snake population in Florida is out-of-hand, if you read the papers. This year has spawned a summer of hysteria, with more articles about Florida’s giant snake population than usual.
“It’s just a matter of time before one of these snakes gets to a visitor,” Florida Senator Bill Nelson warned as he unrolled the skin of a 16 ft Burmese python in front of a subcommittee considering his bill to ban the import of some exotic species. (Since this quotation was displayed prominently in a British paper, we can only assume that Senator Nelson is also worried about the death of local Florida residents, although his remarks seem to be playing only to the tourists among his listeners.)
Bruce Ackerman /Ocala Star-Banner
In Oxford, Florida, police remove an eight feet long albino Burmese python from a home, where it escaped from a terrarium and strangled to death a 2-year-old girl in her bedroom on July 1, 2009. (As pointed out by Chad Arment, author of Boss Snakes: Stories and Sightings of Giant Snakes in North America, this killer snake had been captured the day before and therefore may have been a feral python.)
What is behind the coincidence of the albinos?
On the same day as the Florida incident (and Maine’s sightings!), John and Karen Trapani saw the following outside their Sampson Avenue home in Great Kills, Staten Island, New York, the morning of July 1st. It appeared to be an albino python.
“It was like watching Discovery Channel,” Mrs. Trapani said.
The reptile was caught and was determined to be a 10-foot albino python, about five years old and from an unknown source.
The local animal welfare agency said last year, 91 snakes were brought in.
Albinos are a curiosity for snake owners, but what one reporter said seems to be implying something that goes way beyond what is known about the biology of this color phase of these reptiles.
“Albino pythons can get aggressive as they grow and the owners could have been frightened by it,” wrote reporter Glenn Nyback of the Staten Island Advance.
Herp people? Is what is being conveyed even remotely true? Are albinos more aggressive than any other color morph of the various species? This is news to me.
Any reports of giant snakes, albino or otherwise, in your neck of the woods this summer?