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Newton custodian finds python in school locker

Posted by Sarah Thomas  July 7, 2010 12:08 PM

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Sarah Thomas


Nicki Eccles, manager at Newtonville Pets, with the Ball python found inside a locker at the old Newton North High School.

For $100 plus tax, you can own the last, most slithery inhabitant of the old Newton North High School. Just take better care of him than his last owner.

The unnamed Ball python, estimated to be less than a year old, was found curled inside a locker by a custodian cleaning out notebooks and textbooks, as the building is prepared for demolition. The school's nearly $200 million replacement is set to open this fall.

"The school had a half-day last Monday, and the custodian found him on Friday," said Nicki Eccles, manager at Newtonville Pet, which took the animal in after school officials called with the unusual request. "But we don't know exactly how long he was in there."

Custodian Ed Reardon said he was so shocked when the three-foot-long snake fell at his feet that he didn't think it was real, the Associated Press reported, quoting the Daily News Tribune of Waltham. When it coiled into attack mode, Reardon grabbed it behind the head as he had seen on nature shows and took it to the pet store.

Reardon thinks a student left the snake in the locker at the end of school as a prank. He found a notebook in the same locker with a student's name on it, and turned it over to the principal, the Associated Press said.

Eccles said the python had been shedding and may have been scratching himself on the inside of the locker, which would explain the few scabs on his approximately 2 foot long body. Other than that, she said the snake was in good health and appeared to be well-socialized.

"They don't need a lot, these snakes," Eccles said. "My biggest concern would have been the lack of access to fresh water. But if they're well fed, like this one, ball pythons can go months without food."

The pet store is keeping the snake for around a week to make sure it is good-tempered and has no health problems, before putting it up for sale.

"We're not trying to find the former owner, because what they did in abandoning the snake is actually a crime," Eccles said.

Jen Price, principal of Newton North High School, said the case is under investigation.

"I plan on questioning the student whose notebook was found near the snake, but it's not like I can just get them out of class. It may take a while," she said. "And as an educator, I would be surprised if someone who abandoned a snake also left something identifying them right nearby."

Price said that, while the case is on their radar, the logisitical difficulties of coordinating the move to the new Newton North building and demolishing the old one have left her with little time to pursue the matter.

"This is a very interesting and complex transition," she said. "There's a lot of people coming and going out of the building at any time. I don't think there's any way to be sure it even was a student that abandoned the animal."

Though the case is unusual, Eccles says it is not without precedent.

"A few years ago, we found a parrot abandoned in the vestibule of the ATM next door," she said. "A lot of people who don't know what to do with their pets if they can't take care of them get desperate, but there are right ways to surrender your pet. The ironic thing is, if they had just called us rather than leaving it in the locker, we probably could have worked with them."

Eccles said she also recommends the New England Herpetological Society or local schools for snake owners who want to surrender their pets. The Ball python is one of the most popular pet snake breeds in the U.S.; they rarely grow more than 4 feet long and can live for up to 40 years, according to the New England Reptile Distributors Association.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Sarah Thomas can be reached at newton@boston.com.

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