Grace LaFleur, reptile handler at Our Best Friends pet store, hold a ball python like the one stolen Saturday afternoon during business hours from the store. The snake theif cut through a screen, nabbed the snake and walked out of the store on Kalifornsky Beach Road with the python tucked in his sleeve. Alaska State Troopers are investigating the theft.
Photo by Layton Ehmke
A python and its thief are loose in Alaska.
According to reports, a man stole a young ball python from Our Best Friends pet store in Soldotna on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Employee Kristie Cronce said the theft of the 2- to 3-foot-long snake occurred at 2 p.m. Saturday while the employees were busy with other customers.
"The man went to the back half of the store, cut a screen and slid the window open. He reached in and pulled out the snake," she said. "It's about an $80 snake."
Store owner Jody Hoskis was baffled because the entire incident was witnessed by another customer who watched the man steal the python.
"A lady stood there and watched it happen. I don't know why she didn't say anything until it was too late," he said.
Cronce said the witness finally alerted employees once the snake-nabber was well on his way.
"She didn't say anything until he was all the way out on the road," she said. "The owner went out looking for the guy but didn't find him. This isn't a good thing to happen to a small business."
The employees have the description of the man and his vehicle and expect him to make a return visit. Hoskis said it's only a matter of time before the thief is caught.
"We'd like to have the animal back because it takes some knowledge to properly care for it," he said. "Without the proper care, the animal will likely die."
Hoskis said he would like the man to come in and pay for the screen and snake.
"We know what he looks like and it's a small town. We're going to find him. He's going to have to come back to us eventually."
Ball pythons are native to western and west central Africa and need to be in temperatures between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything else, and its life most likely will be cut short. Young ball pythons grow about a foot a year for three years. They can live for up to about 50 years, although 20 to 30 appears to be more typical, according to reptile author Melissa Kaplan's article, "Herp (herpeton reptile) Care Collection, Ball Pythons" on the Internet.
According to Cronce, ball pythons are so named because when threatened they roll themselves into a tight ball, tucking their head inside their coils. The one taken from the pet store was in a ball. The eye witness apparently thought the man was stealing some sort of rock.
"I hope it doesn't die. The snake should be here so it can be bought by a person educated in taking good care of it. You can't just feed it shrews because they have a poison gland. The mice that (the snake) eats have to be a certain size," Cronce said.
The Alaska State Trooper in charge of the investigation could not be contacted for comment.
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