As temperatures remain scorching across the US, snakes of all shapes and sizes are soaking in the summer sun – including a couple of enormous boa constrictors, who found their way into the streets of Lexington, Massachusetts, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, within hours of each other.
Massachusetts is home to 14 native species of snakes, while Virginia houses an impressive 32. None of these, however, are boa constrictors.
Unfortunately, the boas spotted in both states were almost certainly pets. Countless snakes and other exotic pets escape and/or are abandoned by their owners every year, with the summer months being the most common for reptiles to pull a Houdini, thanks to the allure of the warm weather.
The first boa constrictor appeared in a Virginia backyard
The first incident occurred on Wednesday in Virginia Beach, when a man mowing his yard saw something strange moving through the grass. Looking down, he realized it was a nearly 10-foot boa constrictor lounging in the sun.
“At first I just kind of shrieked as a normal person would seeing a snake of that size,” Michael Peck, the homeowner, told WAVY. After he had a moment to collect himself, however, he took a calmer approach with the errant reptile.
“I love snakes,” Peck clarified. “Venomous snakes are one thing. I used to own a red-tailed boa that almost got to [that] size. I’m very comfortable around those types of animals. It’s just very scary seeing it out in the wild out of nowhere.”
Noticing the boa constrictor appeared lethargic, Peck filled a kiddie pool to give it a drink and a place to cool off. He then contacted a friend with exotic pet experience willing to care for the snake until the actual owner makes themselves known. “I think she either escaped or maybe somebody let her go because she got too big,” he said.
Though snake ownership is legal in Virginia, there are certain restrictions. It’s unlawful to keep a venomous snake (which boa constrictors are not) and to own a snake or other reptile longer than 6 feet. As such, the boa discovered in the backyard is technically an illegal pet.
Boa number two discovered in Massachusetts
On the same day about 600 miles north, Massachusetts residents got their own boa constrictor encounter. This one, however, wasn’t discovered in a backyard but behind a CVS pharmacy in the middle of town.
Like the Virginia boa, residents described the snake as “very docile,” guessing that it was a pet that either escaped or was abandoned by its owner. Residents reported the snake to the police, who in turn contacted the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
“[Mass Wildlife] report that the snake does not pose a threat to anyone,” the Lexington PD explained in a Facebook post. “However, it should not be touched or approached. Experts will be in the area tomorrow … to locate and capture the snake.”
It’s certainly possible that one or both of these boa constrictors escaped their homes. Snakes are master escape artists and will take advantage of any gaps or loose lids in an enclosure. There’s also a distinct possibility, however, that they were abandoned, especially considering their large size.
In both Virginia and Massachusetts, pet abandonment is illegal, even if that pet has scales instead of fur. In nearly all 50 states, in fact, abandoning an animal is classified as animal abuse.
And when it comes to exotic pets like large snakes, abandonment isn’t just illegal and cruel but can also have serious, far-reaching consequences.
Florida, for instance, houses at least 50 different species of invasive reptiles, all of which arrived through the exotic pet trade. This includes the Burmese python, a species responsible for wiping out much of the native wildlife in the Everglades.
Burmese pythons may seem an extreme example. But they provide a powerful reminder of what can happen when exotic pets are handled irresponsibly.