Durham County

‘She’s in great shape,’ but giant albino python needs a home

An 11-foot albino Burmese python found in Chatham County on Saturday is feasting on rats and other rodents at the reptile center where she is resting while officers try to find her a new home.

“She’s healthy. She’s in great shape,” said Chad Griffin, owner of the CCSB Reptile Rescue and Rehab Center in Kernersville, where Chatham County Animal Control officers took the snake.

Pythons in captivity are usually fed rodents, and sometimes even pigs, Griffin said. The python now in his care is getting a diet of rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals, he said.

The owner has not stepped forward, but euthanasia is not an option, officials said.

“I know we will not have a problem adopting her out,” said Animal Control Officer Kelsey Pepper, who helped Officer Kelly Rouse capture the snake in a storage unit.

The snake will be given a good home, and officers will make sure a future owner does not try to breed the snake.

“If someone does not come forward in five business days, we can adopt her or get her to a new home,” Pepper said. If by chance someone does not adopt the python, Animal Control likely will turn the snake over to the rehab center in Kernersville, she said.

Both Pepper and Rouse said the snake was well-fed, had been under good care, had a docile nature and was accustomed to being handled.

Whoever steps up to give the python a home will not be required to have a license or special training, but some rules apply. “The state does not currently operate on a licensing system for these animals,” said Phil Bradley, head of terrestrial exhibits for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. They are not illegal to possess, but state law does set some rules for owners, he said.

North Carolina law governs the handling of constrictor snakes, including the Burmese python. They must be “housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure,” the statute states. The law also requires the enclosure to have the snake’s scientific name, owner’s information, and other details, as well as a written safety protocol and escape recovery plan.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission regulates ownership of native animals, but not non-native exotics such as the python. Counties in North Carolina may enact their own restrictions, but Chatham County does not currently have them.

Burmese pythons can grow up to 23 feet long and weigh as much as 200 pounds, according to National Geographic. In the wild, they eat small mammals and birds. They are not poisonous, but use their sharp teeth to grab their prey, then constrict their bodies around the prey. Because of their markings and generally docile nature, pythons “may be best known as the large snake of choice among reptile owners,” according to National Geographic.

Despite their docile nature, attacks on handlers are not uncommon, according to National Geographic. Because of habitat loss and their popularity as pets, the Burmese python is considered a threatened species.

They can make good pets, provided owners do some research, Bradley said.

“Primarily the Burmese python is owned by hobbyists,” he said. Most are responsible owners, but “people doing it ethically, responsibly and legally are not the ones you tend to hear about,” Bradley said. The python that Chatham County officers picked up was apparently living in a storage shelter, a bad place to keep a pet and clearly a violation of state law, Bradley said.

Bradley warned against making an impulse purchase of a reptile. “We always tell people if they are interested in these types of reptiles … do your homework first.”

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1