Police officers in Florida are used to the occasional wildlife call – alligators appearing in areas they don’t belong is a fairly regular occurrence, after all. Wrangling a 5-foot boa constrictor in a local business’ storeroom, however, doesn’t exactly come with the territory.
To make the situation stranger (if that’s even possible), the call came in to the Clearwater Police Department at 5 am on a Monday. What a way to start the week!
Arriving at the business, Officer Matheny found the large snake tangled among the window bars in the storeroom. Using gloved hands and a cloth to act as a barrier between herself and the serpent, she went to work freeing the “slithery suspect” from the bars.
“Officer Matheny had to put her hands on this rascally reptile to bring it under control,” the Clearwater Police Department wrote in a subsequent Facebook post. “All in a day’s work. You never know what kind of creatures and critters lurk in the night.”
The department identified the snake as a red-tailed boa constrictor, a large, nonvenomous species popular with exotic pet owners.
Though boas are nothing to fear, a 5-foot snake isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Officer Matheny, however, says she would take a massive snake over a spider any day. “If it was a spider, I’m out,” she said. “But I’m OK with snakes.”
How did the boa constrictor get inside the storeroom?
Red-tailed boa constrictors, or common boas, are native to Central and South America. So how did this individual find its way into a business’ storeroom in Florida?
Well, like Burmese pythons, boas are popular in the pet trade. As a result, over 100,000 live boa constrictors were imported into the United States during the exotic pet boom of the ’80s. And unfortunately, like Burmese pythons, countless have since either escaped or been set loose in the wild.
That said, boa constrictors aren’t a banned pet in Florida, unlike the Burmese python. Additionally, they aren’t considered an invasive species, though they aren’t native to the state.
As of now, only 1 county, Miami-Dade, has a breeding population of boas. According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, it was first established in 1990 and has proved self-sustaining ever since.
Clearwater is about 200 miles away from Miami-Dade County, meaning the boa constrictor in the storeroom likely escaped its enclosure in someone’s home. How it got into the business, however, remains unclear.
To be clear, contacting the authorities was the right call. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with wildlife. Though boa constrictors possess no venom and are known to be a fairly docile species, they can be dangerous if mishandled or placed under stress.
Adult boas have large, sharp teeth capable of inflicting serious injury and severe pain. Again, they’re reserved for hunting or self-defense when the snake feels threatened. But even with the best intentions, it’s all too easy to make a mistake.