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Exotic snake found slithering through subdivision
SNAKE WEB for BH 7-30
Bob Ross holds up an exotic snake he and his neighbor found on a road in their neighborhood. - photo by Jim Dean

Coiled halfway up the sides of a bright orange 5-gallon bucket, the dead snake still struck a disquieting nerve.

Then Bob Ross dumped it on the ground.

The bronze and brown-spotted snake stretched at least 6 feet in length and weighed a good 8 to 10 pounds, its middle bulging near the size of a coffee cup - or a young rabbit.

"My neighbor killed it with a hoe," Ross said Wednesday. "He thought it was a copperhead. He said, 'I just killed the biggest copperhead you've ever seen.'"

Upon closer inspection - after the snake was dead - Ross determined that although its color scheme resembled the venomous copperhead, which is native to Georgia, it was clearly something else.

"I think it's an Indian python," he said.

Pythons, the common name for constrictor snakes native to Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands, are nonvenemous snakes that kill their prey by squeezing.

They range from 3 to 33 feet in length and can live for 20 to 30 years in captivity.

Younger, smaller pythons and boa constrictors are popular pets.

Scott Frazier, a Department of Natural Resources biologist, said that since the only venomous snakes native to Forsyth County are copperheads and rattlesnakes, it could be easy for someone to be confused when confronted with something that looks similar.

Ross said his neighbor in the Greenwood Acres subdivision in central Forsyth found the snake crossing Pine Lake Drive on Tuesday, just before a line thunderstorms tore through the area.

Although the stout-bodied snake looked like it hadn't missed a meal, Ross said, "I think somebody let him go."

Lt. David Waters is commander of the Forsyth County Sheriff Office's special services sector, which includes animal control.

Though no one called to report a missing python this week, he surmised that the snake probably belonged to someone living "right close by."

Waters said reports about exotic animals are not that uncommon.

"We've had calls on all kinds of animals ... from emus to snakes."

Unless there is an immediate threat to public safety, deputies treat an exotic animal call much like a domestic animal call - they pick it up and turn it over to the county shelter on Atlanta Highway.

Waters said although any animal can, and does, get loose, the most unusual report the office has had in recent memory was for a 150-pound tortoise.

"He wasn't going anywhere fast," Waters said. "With that one, we were able to locate the owner."

Frazier explained that pythons and other tropical/subtropical "pet trade" constrictor snakes and reptiles are legal to have in Georgia, but are not recommended by the DNR.

"After they've been through the pet trade, they're going to struggle," if they get out or are turned loose, he said.

Uncommitted owners often buy snakes and alligators (which are illegal to have as pets in Georgia) when they are young and small, Frazier said.

Then, by the time they've grown to about 5 feet in length, "people begin to get afraid of caring for them."

Though it's unclear how the Greenwood Acres snake got there, it still met a common fate, even if it was at the blade of a garden hoe.

Frazier said that because much of Georgia is just north of the fall line, exotic snakes can live in the wild-though generally not for long-unlike Florida, which in recent years has developed a significant population of exotic constrictor snakes.

"During the summer months, pet trade constrictor snakes could exist in Georgia," Frazier said. "It's the winter they may or may not survive."

And a colder winter climate, as far as other native wildlife is concerned, could be a good thing.

"It keeps us from being like Florida," Frazier said. "We don't want huge populations of pythons and boas around our swamps."