Albino Burmese python
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Big Bird, the Albino Burmese Python

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I ran the Charm City Reptile and Amphibian Rescue for 14 years (no longer in operation). Here is a story about one of the rescues, an albino Burmese python.

I was at my part-time job when I got a call on the rescue cell phone. A woman said her son, Butch, had an albino Burmese python he needed to place. I asked what size it was. She told me it was four feet long and 100 pounds!

I laughed and said, “That sounds like the size of a person and not a snake.”

She said, “I’m not sure about the size.”

She called back a few days later and informed me that the snake was actually 14 feet long and 100 pounds. No offense to men, but they always over estimate the length of snakes! Have I mentioned that before? It’s a running joke around here.

I set up an appointment, knowing and hoping that the snake was not that long! Butch and his dad, Frank, were going to bring the python that weekend.

I warned the volunteers we were going to have to get the big cage ready because we didn’t really know what to expect. Our intake protocol included soaking the snake in warm water to check for mites. Given its size, this might be a problem.

On the Sunday we were expecting the Burmese python, a lady and her 12-year-old son arrived to adopt their first snake, a little corn snake. We were talking about how to care for the corn snake when the big snake arrived.

A pick-up truck roared to the front of my house with an oddly shaped object in the bed covered with a tarp. I thought, Oh my! These people had the snake out in the cold.

Fortunately, it was above freezing; actually it was in the 50s. It was completely inappropriate and too cold to transport a snake in the back of an open pick-up truck. Frank pulled off the tarp, and there was a big albino Burmese python stuffed into the bottom of a 28″ x 28″ x 30″ wire bird cage. I should have taken photos of it while it was in the bird cage, just to show how horrible it was. I was too angry to think of it at the time.

The family had taken in this snake 12 years earlier. It was found in a metal trashcan that had a sharp edge. The snake had some cuts on it that needed medical attention. They took in the snake and nursed it back to health.

We could see lots of old scars on the body. Butch told us you could see the words “moon me” and “joy” in the natural pattern of the snake. The snake was opaque because it was ready to shed, making it hard to see the pattern. We could also see new injuries, and medical tape was attached to the side of the bird cage.

Butch said, “The snake’s name is Baby Girl.” I found that interesting since the snake appeared to be a male.

Butch told us that the snake was “free range” in their house. It was fed live chickens, pigeons or rats in the house. To my horror and the fascination of the young boy adopting his corn snake, Butch continued with his incredulous story-telling. He told us how the snake “hogged the bathtub.” I had no idea what that meant and really didn’t want to know.

Can you imagine the carnage as a snake fights it out with a live, full-grown chicken! And, they are loose in the house? All I could picture in my mind was cock fighting.

At least he wasn’t using grocery store chicken pieces because that is not healthy for the snake. Don’t get me wrong, using birds instead of rodents is acceptable and some people swear by them. But, not loose in the house! And, feeding large live prey to a snake results in injuries to the snake, not to mention the hideous death for the prey item.

Why shouldn’t you let a large Burmese python loose in your house? It’s not warm enough. They can get wedged behind a refrigerator or other appliance with a motor and get stuck, injured or killed. Pythons can find a way out of the house. They can KILL SOMEONE! Forget having a dog or cat if you have a big Burmese running loose.

The snake turned out to be pretty big, about 10 feet, however, not the 14 foot, 100-pound monster we were told about. The head was large, which means it was full grown. But the snake itself was way undersized probably because it was never kept warm enough and was only fed once every three weeks.

I can understand having a huge cage, or even devoting a whole room to a Burmese python. But you should never let a snake have free access to your home.

All reptiles can carry salmonella. A snake that is crawling across your kitchen table, dining room table or kitchen counters is just a bad idea.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that the bigger the animal, the bigger the poop and urates. Can you imagine waking up one morning and stepping in a big pile of that? If you give a Burmese python access to water, which I’m hoping they did, they can create urates and liquid that is like someone dumping a bucket on the floor. Why would you want the snake to do that wherever it wanted in your house? You shouldn’t!

Burmese pythons are prone to upper respiratory infections. If you have a free ranging Burmese python, it’s going to look for warmth. If you are asleep in your bed, that warmth might be you. I can’t emphasize enough what a bad idea it is to have a free roaming snake.

It’s funny that they brought the snake in a bird cage when they were feeding it birds, hence the new name – Big Bird! Today is the first time I’m trying to feed Big Bird frozen-thawed rats. I hope it will eat them. Somehow, I think it will.

After being put in a large cage (8 feet x 3 feet x 2 feet, the biggest cage we have) the snake roamed around looking for a way out. That’s not so unusual. Most snakes check out the surroundings when you put them in a new enclosure. It’s been a few days and it seems to be relaxing now, just sitting coiled up in the corner.

It took us a long time to find a hide box big enough for this animal – another thing it had to find on its own while being a free range snake. We ended up using the top half of a dog crate. So far, it has not figured out that the dog crate is the hide box. It has been hiding behind it. I have a feeling that after eating, it will retreat to the hide. We always try to make the animals feel secure here. A hide box is a good way to do that.

Butch finally left. The house was oddly quiet as he galloped back to his pickup truck, hopped in with Frank and drove off. The young boy asked me about the big snake. This man had just set the worst example.

“Is it okay to let a snake loose like that?” he asked, his mother rolling her eyes. I gave them a good talk about how people surrendering animals are not the best people for advice. The boy asked me about feeding live prey and feeding chicken. It turned out to be a good chance for this young boy to learn some good information. I think I ended up giving him a book. Sometimes I give books or magazine to the younger kids, especially if I have multiple copies. A lot of times when people surrender an animal, they bring everything – as I request – and that often includes books.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Holli Friedland.

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