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NC Press: Abandoned snakes find a home

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Mon Dec 8 23:14:56 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

TIMES-NEWS (Burlington, N Carolina) 26 November 08 Abandoned snakes find a new home in Whitsett (Roselee Papandrea)
Roy Key is used to receiving calls from Guilford County Animal Control because a boa constrictor was left behind in an abandoned dorm room or a python was found slithering around in someone's yard.
So Key, who lives in Whitsett, didn't think it unusual when Tamee Penley, supervisor of Burlington Animal Services, called him last week to see if he could provide a home for an albino Burmese python and a red-tail boa constrictor that had been at the shelter since Oct. 23.
"I usually get them around the end of the school year," said Key, a forensic pathology assistant in the medical examiner's office at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro that serves Alamance, Guilford, Rockingham and Caswell counties. "College students get snakes as pets during the school year. Their mothers say they can come home for the summer but the snake can't. So they either leave it in the dormitory or release it."
Key rescued the python and boa constrictor from the Alamance County shelter last Friday. In that case, the two snakes were found in a foreclosed home on Colt Trail, and they were in bad shape, Penley said.
"They were cold," she said. "We tried to heat them up. They were loaded with mites, which are hard to get rid of."
The snakes, which are between 5 feet and 6 feet in length, were kept in the cage where they were found. The cage was placed in a small room used for storage at the shelter. The health of the snakes improved while they were at the shelter, but the boa constrictor still hasn't eaten.
Key is a herpeculturist - he studies reptiles and amphibians - and said the boa constrictor won't eat until it sheds its skin, and it's had a difficult time doing that because it wasn't taken care of properly.
"He is having problems secreting oil to help him shed so I'm soaking him twice a day in lukewarm water so the old skin will get soft and I can peel it off," Key said.
Key said the process is painful, similar to what humans feel when they are badly sunburned. The skin is also very tight, so the snake doesn't want to eat until that's over.
"Once the old skin comes off, he will feel better and more like eating," Key said.
But Key is preparing to serve up a hearty meal to both the boa constrictor and the python. He ordered rats and mice from a wholesale distributor in Walnut Cove and, while the snakes that feast on medium-sized rats get fed once every two or three weeks, his two newest dinner guests will be given more than their usual share this week.
"This week, they are getting two medium-sized rats," he said. "They are still on the skinny side, and then I will get them on a maintenance diet."
Key has about 75 snakes, from venomous vipers to corn and king snakes. Many of the snakes, with the exception of the poisonous ones, he's acquired because they were abandoned by someone.
When he is not working as a forensic pathology assistant, he tries to educate people about the benefits of snakes and how to properly care for them. Every September, he participates in Snaketacular at the Natural Science Center in Greensboro.
Abandoned snakes find a new home


   

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