July 18, 2008

Python Finds Home, for Now

By Mark LaFlamme

LEWISTON - Theories abounded Thursday about how a python made its way into a Gorham woman's washing machine the night before. By the end of the day, they were still only theories. Wildlife experts say they will likely never know how the snake came to settle on top of a load of wet duds.

A day after the reptile caused a buzz in both Gorham and Lewiston, it was resting comfortably at the state Wildlife Park in Gray. There, the snake was even enjoying a measure of celebrity after it garnered national headlines and was put out for public viewing.

"It was fed and watered today, and appears to be quite active," said Lisa Kane, the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife natural sciences educator who manages the park.

"Although this is not a normal responsibility of Wildlife Park staff, this exotic animal will be well cared for until arrangements can be made to transport it to York Animal Kingdom," Kane said. Until then, it may be viewed at the Wildlife Park during regular business hours.

Whether people will flock to the wildlife park to see the still- nameless python remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, wildlife authorities stressed that the snake, a reticulated python, is illegal to own in Maine except by those with permits. Obtaining such a permit is no easy exercise. A person seeking one would find that actually two permits are required, one to import the animal and the other to possess it.

According to state biologist Vasco Carter, an individual seeking a permit would call the department about their interest to import and possess an exotic, non-native animal. A discussion would then take place about what the person intended to do with the animal.

Although the origin of the python captured Thursday was not known, it was suspected that it had been brought to Maine without proper permits.

"This is a prime example of what happens when people either don't know about the illegal importation law, don't fully understand it or just plain ignore it," said Major Gregory Sanborn of the Maine Warden Service.

It applies to exotic fish, snakes and primates, he said. "People who bring them into the state often abandon them and endanger the native species - and in this case, human life. Luckily, in this case no one got hurt."

The snake was retrieved from the washing machine Wednesday by Richard Burton, who operates Maine Animal Damage Control. It was brought to Lewiston where it was inspected by animal experts.

Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout on Thursday got the privilege of driving the python to its temporary new home in Gray. He said there were no incidents on the drive down. The snake, described as ornery a day earlier, rode caged in the back of a truck. "We got along just fine," Strout said.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Sun-Journal Lewiston, Me.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.