Monday, September 12, 2011

Rat Snake Freakout: Paradise Coast Edition

Photo Courtesy of Fingerprinceprints.com

For the last few days I have been monitoring a news story in Naples, Florida about an apparent python on the loose. First, a man spotted a large snake on his doorstep and assumed that it was a Burmese Python. A helpful neighbor noted that, "It kills." Mysterious flyers began to appear, warning residents of the python; that someone was putting up flyers suggested that the beast had escaped from a worried owner, but nobody could figure out who had posted them. Then, we started hearing about how pet owners were concerned about how the giant snake might eat their dogs.The Sheriff's office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were on the scene, but couldn't find the snake or confirm who had put up the flyers.


I was skeptical about this evolving story and I had some suspicions...now, they have been confirmed, kind of.

Upon further investigation, the "8 to 9 foot" snake was yellow. And, the flyers were not posted by a concerned owner looking for their pet, they were posted by the Homeowner's Association, and the Homeowner's Association had been tipped off by the people who had originally seen the snake. Everything leads back to the snake on the doorstep...the yellow snake.

Is it possible that there is a large yellow python on the loose in the neighborhood? I suppose so, pythons have established themselves in south Florida and made a problem for themselves (but they would never be mistaken for yellow). And, pet breeders have created lots of strange looking animals (including ones that may appear yellow), but they are expensive and it is unlikely that someone would have let their snake escape without putting up a fuss.

Photo Courtesy of Fingerprinceprints.com
What I think what we have here is another Rat Snake Freakout. The Rat Snake that can be found throughout peninsular Florida can reach 7 feet long and is commonly called...wait for it...the Yellow Rat Snake. If you have already read my other posts on hapless rat snakes confronted by angry and confused people, you will know that even though rat snakes are common throughout eastern North America, even though they are completely harmless to people, even though they are considered beneficial because of their habit of eating rats and mice, their large size inspires some very strange reactions. These reactions often included mistaking Rat Snakes for pythons, boas, mambas, you name it. I think it is just very hard for many people to accept that big snakes are a normal (and harmless) component of our native wildlife fauna.

So, I could be wrong, but I think Naples can come off of high alert and relax in the knowledge that the snake rampaging through the neighborhood is probably just a Yellow Rat Snake looking for somewhere to hide out. I hope that everyone curious about native snakes decides to visit Corkscrew Wildlife Sanctuary, in Naples, where you can find Yellow Rat Snakes, or maybe spend a little time reading about all the other snakes that can be found in the area. Like I said, I could be wrong, if that is the case I apologize in advance to everyone, but until someone brings up some bona fide evidence of a yellow python, I think everyone in Naples can tell their grandchildren they don't need to cancel their visit.

It sounds like people have started coming to their senses.



Got a story that you think is a case of a Rat Snake Freakout? Let me know.

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