Fugitive snake prompts warning

Wellington OPP officials are warning village  residents to take precautions after a seven-foot boa constrictor was reported loose.

On June 20 at about 4:15pm,  OPP officers received information about a boa constrictor that may have escaped from a residence in Arthur.

Police conducted an investigation and finally located and spoke to the owner of the snake who confirmed the snake was missing.

The owner advised the snake had been missing since June 19 from his George Street apartment.  

The owner further stated the snake escaped out of a second floor apartment by sliding through the screen of an open window while he was cleaning its tank.  

The snake is described as being between  six and seven feet in length and weighing approximately 40 pounds. The boa is  described  as being  several shades of brown, is non-venomous (not poisonous), and normally eats rats.

News of the fugitive snake prompted St. John Catholic School principal David Mencfeld to issue a precautionary  warning to  parents. The school learned of the escaped boa on June 22.

“I found  out  around noon and we kept the students in,” Mencfeld said of initial precautions taken by the school. “The kids stayed in and we kept the windows and doors locked.

“We informed parents  and any students who walk to school,” he added, referring to a  letter sent out by the school the following Monday when it  was confirmed the snake was loose.

The school also cancelled a planned swimming excursion to the Arthur pool, and the principal inspected the school grounds when he learned of the fugitive snake.

“Even though boa constrictors are not normally aggressive and generally harmless,  they may bite if cornered or agitated,” an OPP News release stated. “These snakes can easily survive the current weather conditions and can also climb trees. A search of the surrounding area and canvass of the neighbours and local businesses has yielded negative results.”

Downtown merchants Pravin and  Sejal Patel, who own Meroon Market, said they are taking precautions since learning about the escaped snake. The couple is keeping a close watch when their 9-year-old daughter plays in the backyard of their downtown variety store and when they go for walks in the evening.

Wellington North Mayor Ray Tout said residents should take OPP precautions seriously.

“It  may have been  raised as a pet,  but if you’re unaware of it and it’s cornered mother nature is going to kick in,” Tout said of the potential danger. “People have to be alert.”

The township does not have a bylaw regulating how exotic pets should be housed or prohibiting certain exotic animals from the municipality.

Tout said he intends to have council consider a bylaw once the township has explored other municipal bylaws for exotic animals.

“It’s all totally new,” Tout said. “We’ve never run into this before.”

Township employees working in Arthur have been told to look out for the snake during their rounds.

Wellington County OPP are requesting the public’s assistance in locating this snake and stressing that if observed, people should definitely not try and capture it – but call 1-888-310-1122 or 911 instead.