By NATHAN GREGORY
Starkville Animal Control officers have responded to two separate calls within the past three weeks regarding large pet snakes who escaped from their owners and were found roaming around the vicinity of Campus View Drive and Mary Lee Lane.
Officer Rich McKee said the first call of a Peruvian red tail boa constrictor was reported Sept. 3 by Mississippi State University maintenance staff. The snake was reported to be at least 5 feet in length and was eventually caught and returned to its owner, he said.
A second report was filed Sept. 14 after a smaller ball boa constrictor was spotted in the same area.
McKee said the exotic pets were able to escape because they were not housed in escape-proof tanks. Boa constrictors have long-term lifespans, he said, and continuously grow throughout the course of their lives.
He encourages people who might be interested in having such a pet for themselves to do their research before making a decision.
“The thing I think most people don’t realize is how long those things live — 20 years up to about 40 years. That’s a long commitment for an animal like that. I’ve talked to people who have given them up (because of) the feeding process,” McKee said. “Having to keep the frozen mice in the freezer gets strange, and the larger they get the larger the prey animals you have to feed them. A lot of people don’t realize you have to keep mice and rats in your freezer, which is kind of strange to me. I don’t think I could go through that.”
An employee of North Mississippi Pet Supply who asked not to be named said animal control officers brought the Peruvian boa to her and said it appears it got away because it was kept in a wooden enclosure. She said many owners make their own enclosures or modify fish tanks to operate as dwellings for the Boas because the cost of a properly sized escape-proof one can range anywhere from $800 to $1,000. An ideally sized enclosure for a Boa should be at least 6 feet long and 24 inches from front to back — a 125 gallon tank.
McKee said modified tanks meant for other uses are not appropriate because Boas are adept escape artists.
“Usually people have these glass tanks and they keep them in there. You have a spring top that goes on top with a clip, but they can push those things loose. They’re really strong animals. They’ll push on all the corners and from side to side,” he said. “If there’s a way out they will find it or make it. They do get out a lot. From what I understand you have to handle these animals a good bit or they tend to get a little aggressive. You have to spend time with them because they will get aggressive on you if you don’t.”
McKee and the NMPS employee both emphasized that maintenance of such a pet takes a lot of responsibility.
“I really wish people would get (escape-proof) enclosures for them because if they got out they could not survive in this climate, especially during the winter,” the employee said.