Giant Pythons, Illegal to Own, Removed From Vt. Property

The animals are now with a reptile sanctuary in Massachusetts

Two large, exotic pythons that were given up by their owner in New York are now at a Massachusetts sanctuary for reptiles. The reticulated pythons, one approximately 20 feet long and weighing about 225 pounds, the other slightly smaller, are native to southeast Asia.

Pat Howard, a snake collector in North Clarendon, Vermont, told necn he received a phone call from a snake enthusiast in New York who could no longer care for the snakes. That enthusiast asked Howard to take them, the collector said.

However, Howard said he had serious concerns about his ability to care for the animals, because of their size, appetites, and potential risks to humans.

"If a snake that size got ahold of you, if you didn't have any help with you, you're a goner," Howard said.

Howard said he took both snakes to his home, but promptly called the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, and asked for help handing the snakes over to experts.

"I'm just glad to see she's going to where she'll be well cared for," Howard said of the larger of the two reticulated pythons.

The snakes are now in the hands of Rainforest Reptile Shows of Massachusetts. It has a motto of "conservation through education.”

"We are mostly a sanctuary rescue," herpetologist Mack Ralbovsky of Rainforest Reptile Shows said of his organization. "These animals will be taken care of, and they will have a good home."

Ralbovsky said the big snakes will likely enjoy a diet of small mammals, such as rabbits. The organization feeds snakes animals that are dead, not alive, Ralbovsky explained.

Chad Barrett, a game warden with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department who leads efforts around exotic species, said the number of exotic creatures located in Vermont seems to have increased in recent years. He said that may be due to more selling on the internet, or perhaps to more public education around risks of keeping the animals.

Barrett pointed to monkeys, a scorpion, alligators, and a caiman as outsider species found in Vermont in recent years. "They don't make good house pets," Barrett said.

The department has a list of rules and regulations that must be followed for animal importation. That list is available here.

Barrett said it is a main goal of his to not see exotic species released into the wild. Doing so could destroy local ecosystems, not to mention maybe kill the animals come winter, he warned.

"We have contacts all over the east coast where we can hopefully get [exotic species] homed without having to put them down," Barrett said. "Just call your local fish and wildlife office—your local warden—and we'll know how to respond to an exotic animal situation."

As for Pat Howard, Barrett said he will not face any charges for his brief possession of the illegal pythons, because his only motivation was to rescue them.

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