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7-Foot-Long Boa Constrictor On The Loose In Swarthmore

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(Photo by Ed Fischer) Robin Culverwell
Robin Culverwell has been an editor, reporter and anchor for KYW...
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By Robin Culverwell, Todd Quinones

SWARTHMORE, Pa., (CBS) – Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for an unusual escapee – a seven-foot-long boa constrictor.

The snake was reported missing from its owner’s home in the 300 block of Park Avenue in Swarthmore early Sunday afternoon.

Swarthmore Police Chief Brian Craig says he’s no snake expert, but wants people to be on the lookout.

“I really don’t think there’s any cause to be overly alarmed. You just have to be aware of it and if you see it contact police,” said Craig.

The snake owner, also a veterinarian, says it is extremely unlikely the snake would attack a small pet or even a child, but he can’t rule it out either.

Normally the snake eats two live rats every three to four weeks, according to his owner David Spiegel.

Snakey, as he’s called, last ate about a week and half ago.

“The biggest concern is as time goes on and he gets hungrier he may get more aggressive in terms of looking for food,” Spiegel said.

Little Rudy the dog and Sammy the cat have grown up alongside the snake.

Spiegel who did call police when the snake disappeared says the reptile is “friendly” with his other pets and it has never been in the wild.

Besides, he contends, even small pets are bigger than what would be the snake’s first choice to kill.

“If he’s a danger to anything it might be to moles or frogs or birds,” Spiegel said.

The Philadelphia Zoo’s general curator Kevin Murphy says a seven-foot snake is small and not interested in terrorizing anybody.

“It’s going to go where it feels most secure initially and then probably if it’s warm enough, like in a house. Then it’ll move around, explore, when it’s darker out,” said Murphy.

Murphy says unless captured, the boa likely won’t survive the autumn as the temperature cools, and starvation is a distinct possibility.

But still neighbors in this town, especially ones with small children, aren’t thrilled a seven-foot snake that constricts and suffocates its prey is wandering around.

“Yeah I’d be worried if we were out in the backyard, I would be really uncomfortable. I wouldn’t know what to do,” neighbor Lorraine Myro said.

Neighbor Don Haldeman once owned a boa constrictor.

He spent part of his day beating the bushes looking for the snake and agrees with Spiegel the snake isn’t a likely threat.

“He’s probably completely correct, but I took all my cats in today,” Haldeman said.

Spiegel left the snake alone in his backyard Sunday, like he often does, so the snake can get some sun.

“In between checking on him he managed to wander off,” Spiegel said.

The snake has wandered off in the past and was found a couple of days later with no problems.

The Swarthmore Police Chief said there is no law in town against having an exotic pet, but added this situation could spark a conversation about changing that.

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