Can you hear the snakes calling?

Imagine walking down a city street and suddenly happening upon a rather large boa constrictor sunning itself.

There was a snake on the loose in an Ottawa neighbourhood this week, but don’t worry — he’s very shy, says the owner.

The one and a half metre long boa constrictor is named Murphy.

“He’s very shy, even in the house. Like, he’s very quiet,” the owner told CBC News. “I just hope he comes out to get some heat in the sun and someone sees him.”

Now, questions arise from this, the first being, couldn’t you really describe every snake as quiet? Snakes are known for being many things — among being the world’s most repulsive living things — but being noisy is not a problem usually associated with snakes. Unless they rattle.

I thought I heard a snake call, is not something you will often hear. Did you see that snake???!!!! is a more common comment.

I made such a comment just the other day when I was walking up the sidewalk beside my house and horrors!!!!, there was a snake slithering along the sidewalk. I shrieked. I back-pedalled so hard I left rubber burns on the sidewalk, all to get myself away from the horrendous serpent. Full disclosure, this was a garter snake, all of 30 cm long.

So you can imagine what you would have heard had I happened to be strolling the streets of Ottawa and happened across a ONE AND A HALF METRE BOA CONSTRICTOR! You may not hear the snake, but by golly you would have heard me.

The boa’s owner is very worried about her snake. I am worried about the citizens of Ottawa. Also, the City of Ottawa animal control department was not entirely sure this was a sanctioned snake, so residents were warned that if they did see the snake, they were not to approach. That would not be a problem for me. In fact I would have left a vapour trail leaving the scene of the snake.

Apparently in Ottawa you are not allowed to own a snake that will grow to two metres full grown. Owner of Murphy says he’s ten, and therefore full grown, but who knows if that’s true? How do you tell how old a snake is? You can’t ask Murphy, he’s apparently quiet and shy.

An expert I happened upon on whilst consulting the oracle, Google, says that it’s fairly difficult to discern a four-year old snake from a 14-year old snake, so Ottawa Animal Control really has no way of knowing if Murphy is going to have a sudden half metre growth spurt.

Officials are downplaying any risk to public safety, but residents of the Ottawa neighbourhood are alarmed. Rightfully I’d say. As of Wednesday, the serpent was still on the lam.

Now you may be picking up on the fact that I am not a fan of snakes. I cannot stress enough how much I dislike them. If there is a book in my home with a picture of a snake in it, that book will be exiting my house. If my neighbour had a snake in their house I’d have to move. Or somehow convince the neighbour to move. My snake-phobia knows no bounds.

So you can imagine my excitement and joy, when in the course of my research, I discovered that not only are there rattlesnakes (rattlesnakes!) right here in B.C., but that a warming climate could push them into areas where they have not been seen before. Great.

There are also garter snakes, and a species of boa in the Kimberley Nature Park. A boa! In the Nature Park! Murphy’s cousin! The Nature Park Society, like Murphy’s owner, say the snakes are small, shy and secretive. Sure, another snake, just minding its own business, not making any noise.

It’s always the quiet ones, folks.

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