NORTH CLARENDON, Vt. (AP) — Two giant southeast Asian pythons that were rescued by a long-time snake collector and were turned over to state game wardens are headed to a sanctuary.
The larger of the two reticulated pythons picked up Tuesday by experts from the Massachusetts-based Rainforest Reptile Shows with help from three Vermont game wardens was a female between 17 and 18 feet long, weighing about 220 pounds. A slightly smaller male was about 15 feet long and weighed about 150 pounds.
The snake collector, Pat Howard, said after the snakes had been loaded into plastic tubs for their trip to Massachusetts that he's "smart enough to realize that snake is bigger than I can safely take care of."
"Come feeding time is the most dangerous time to be around a snake," said Howard, who has kept snakes for decades and has almost two dozen smaller snakes in his North Clarendon home. "That's when anything goes, and you certainly want to be out of the way. A snake that size got ahold of you, if you didn't have any help with you, you're a goner."
The reticulated python, named for the geometric patterns on its skin, is one of the largest snake species in the world. It can reach almost 30 feet long and weigh 350 pounds.
Howard, who does educational programs with some of his snakes and sets up a booth at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, said he got the pythons on Sunday from a New York man who couldn't keep them. He called the bigger one "humongous." He knew he didn't have the permits to keep them so on Monday he called state game wardens.
Howard said many species of exotic snakes can be bought inexpensively when they are small. People frequently call him when they can no longer take care of them.
Vermont Game Warden Chad Barrett, who handles exotic wildlife, said the two pythons were probably the biggest exotic snakes his agency has had to deal with. He praised Howard for promptly turning the giant snakes over to the proper authorities.
"This one went very smoothly," he said.
The Rainforest Reptile Shows, based in Beverly, Massachusetts, does educational and entertainment programs with snakes and other reptiles. It also will take homeless snakes, said Rainforest snake expert Mack Ralbovsky, who drove to Vermont on Tuesday with co-worker EmmaLee Eng to take the snakes back to Massachusetts.