Okay, why is this happening? In the space of a week, two 9′ long reticulated pythons were found in different parts of Maine. One was in a washer in Southern Maine. One was found a few days later under a truck in Central Maine. What in the Sam Hill is going on here?
Reticulated Pythons are NOT indigenous to Maine. Heck, they’re not even indigenous to the US, although they’re turning up in Florida the way tornadoes are turning up in NH this summer. Some experts estimate that there are upward of 30,000 in Florida, with a concentration in the Everglades. That sounds really scary to me. I mean, alligators are bad enough, but these are snakes that can swallow a cow.
Last time I looked -I believe it was when swimsuit season started – I was about the size of a smallish Holstein. This is scary stuff, folks. I mean, there aren’t even supposed to be any poisonous snakes in Maine, so we Mainers have been lulled into a false sense of security vis-a-vis giant snakes.
I’m not afraid of snakes on the whole. I grew up in RI where the only bothersome snakes were water moccasins which can deliver a painful bite and a small dose of poison. If you’re past the toddler stage, you have little to fear from a water moccasin. Oh sure, once in a long while an Eastern Diamondback or Timber Rattler slithered over the border from CT, but they were few and far between and we didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about them while we were blueberrying or camping in the woods.
I never thought about snakes at all, until I moved to Texas when I was in my twenties. I shared a cinder block house with two other women who seemed to be out most of the time. They were also slobs, so I was the one who usually brought the trash out to the small one-car garage where we stored it until we put it out at the curb on trash day.
One day, after one of my roommates had regaled us with a particularly blood-curdling story about a man who got bitten by a rattler in his carport, I chanced to take the garbage out to the garage. The bag was heavy and the trash can was full, so I kind of balanced it on the other bags in the can and headed for the door. That’s when I heard the snake.
Anyone who has ever heard a heavy snake slither over a concrete floor is familiar with the sound I heard. It was so patently the sound of scales scraping over rough concrete that I froze in my tracks. The sound was between me and the door. The only other door – the overhead one – didn’t go up unless you hit the switch that was also on the other side of the sound. I was trapped.
I thought of all the movies I’d seen where an unsuspecting victim got struck by a lightning fast rattlesnake’s fangs and wished I didn’t have quite so vivid an imagination. I also wished that I’d stayed in New England where snakes had the decency to hibernate in the colder months. This was December, but this rattlesnake evidently had no regard for seasons. It was slithering around with wild abandon in spite of the 50-ish temperatures.
As quietly as I could, I inched over toward the door, hoping that the snake wouldn’t hear me. I couldn’t remember if snakes have acute hearing or lousy hearing. I was kicking myself for not paying more attention to those Nature Specials on PBS. Just as I inched another inch closer, the slithering sound came again. I froze.
It was a long night. I inched. The slithery sound came again. It seemed almost as if it was choreographed for heaven’s sake. Every time I moved, the sound followed. In spite of my fear, I was getting really p.o.’d and ready to make a dash for it. Finally, that’s exactly what I did.
I reached the door and just as I did, there was a giant slithery sound, as if a bag of sand had been tipped upside down and emptied into a trash bag. Suddenly, I realized that this is exactly what had happened. The slithery sound I’d been hearing all along was cat litter sliding down inside the trash bag I’d deposited in the can. My snake was kitty litter.
Luckily, no one had witnessed the ignominious scenario in the garage. My roommates hadn’t returned when I went back into the house and I never told them about my “rattlesnake” incident. I think about it though whenever I hear about a giant snake. I wonder if the snake is real or just so much cat litter. In the case of the reticulated pythons, they’re real.
I am not encouraged by the fact that reticulated pythons lay over 100 eggs. I AM encouraged by the fact that the eggs and the young are fodder for many animals including hawks, eagles, larger carnivores and monitor lizards. (We don’t have monitor lizards in Maine, but what with Global Warming, I’m sure that will change over time.)
If, Gentle Reader, you have a reticulated python that has gotten a little too big for comfort, please deliver it to a zoo and not to Maine. Maine is not a good habitat for reticulated pythons, no matter what you’ve heard on the ‘Net. Maine IS a good place for moose if your moose has gotten too big for your backyard, which can happen to anyone.
In closing, I’d like to recommend that people stop buying snakes to impress other people. Use your brains, folks. Large snakes get larger and then where are you? You have to sleep sometime and they’re really good at getting the top off their cage. Leave the pythons and boas and anacondas where they belong and adopt a local garter snake or make toad houses in your garden. Trust me, it’s a lot easier on the ol’ nerves and the environment too.
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