Summer In The City: Albino Giant Snakes

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 4th, 2009

It seems that you can’t get through the summers in North America anymore without hearing about the crazy crocs in the sewers, city park ponds, and small lakes. Then along comes “Shark Week” on television – actually this week – and someone tends to report a shark here or there off the coast.

As I hinted earlier this year, for the summer of 2009, we may have to add a higher than normal number of giant snake stories into the mix.

Certainly, this year’s sightings in Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and other locations seem to be driving home that possibility. When you start having pythons showing up in recycling centers, as occurred in Maine (see here and here), certainly some kind of trend seems in the works. There’s also a repeating cycle even in locations, dates, and strangely enough, the same kind of snakes.

In June of 2007, in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a nine-foot albino python was caught near where 2009’s encounters are occurring.

On Friday, July 10, 2009, a woman was taking a stroll in a trailer park on West Main Street in Annville Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, when she found the 10-foot-long albino Burmese python (below). The owner was unknown, but latter a local man admitted releasing two pythons because he couldn’t care for them any longer. He has been charged with cruelty to animals and introduction of non-native species into the wild.

Photos courtesy of Jesse Rothacker, Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary.

The 2009 killing of a child in Florida by another albino python put an exclamation mark on such reports. There seems little doubt that the feral large exotic snake population in Florida is out-of-hand, if you read the papers. This year has spawned a summer of hysteria, with more articles about Florida’s giant snake population than usual.

“It’s just a matter of time before one of these snakes gets to a visitor,” Florida Senator Bill Nelson warned as he unrolled the skin of a 16 ft Burmese python in front of a subcommittee considering his bill to ban the import of some exotic species. (Since this quotation was displayed prominently in a British paper, we can only assume that Senator Nelson is also worried about the death of local Florida residents, although his remarks seem to be playing only to the tourists among his listeners.)

Bruce Ackerman /Ocala Star-Banner
In Oxford, Florida, police remove an eight feet long albino Burmese python from a home, where it escaped from a terrarium and strangled to death a 2-year-old girl in her bedroom on July 1, 2009. (As pointed out by Chad Arment, author of Boss Snakes: Stories and Sightings of Giant Snakes in North America, this killer snake had been captured the day before and therefore may have been a feral python.)

What is behind the coincidence of the albinos?

On the same day as the Florida incident (and Maine’s sightings!), John and Karen Trapani saw the following outside their Sampson Avenue home in Great Kills, Staten Island, New York, the morning of July 1st. It appeared to be an albino python.

Photo courtesy of Karen Trapani.

“It was like watching Discovery Channel,” Mrs. Trapani said.

The reptile was caught and was determined to be a 10-foot albino python, about five years old and from an unknown source.

The local animal welfare agency said last year, 91 snakes were brought in.

Albinos are a curiosity for snake owners, but what one reporter said seems to be implying something that goes way beyond what is known about the biology of this color phase of these reptiles.

“Albino pythons can get aggressive as they grow and the owners could have been frightened by it,” wrote reporter Glenn Nyback of the Staten Island Advance.

Herp people? Is what is being conveyed even remotely true? Are albinos more aggressive than any other color morph of the various species? This is news to me.

Any reports of giant snakes, albino or otherwise, in your neck of the woods this summer?

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Summer In The City: Albino Giant Snakes”

  1. patspain responds:

    Hello Loren,

    Great article! I work with large constrictors A LOT (I’ve even tried to a track a few of the loose ones you’ve mentioned on this site!) and have never found albino or any other color morph to be more or less aggressive than any other.

    I think the reporter was saying inexperienced snake owners are drawn to the “cool” factor of an albino without realizing the commitment and potential for problems as they get older. I regularly work with a 16 foot albino burm and she’s a sweetheart, wouldn’t hurt anyone.

    Anyone looking to get a constrictor though should start with a ball-python and, in a few years, if all is going well, move onto a burm or one of the boa species. And please, if you can’t take care of your pet DON’T SET IT FREE! There are tons of options open to you, places and people who would be happy even to take an aggressive snake off of your hands.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    Beautiful snake—though I can understand why some folk would get frustrated with keeping and feeding it.
    Thankfully, this critter will be taken care of properly now.

  3. spotshouse responds:

    Hi! (raising my hand) I’m one of those herp people. I have never noticed an albino python having any different personality than a normally colored python. Understanding, of course, that some pythons can be rather testy. A person does have to handle snakes to keep them in a “tame” temperament.
    I do have an idea, though, on the coincidence of albino snakes showing up. It’s simply that albinos are much more visible than normally colored snakes. Most snake morphs practically blend in to wild habitat. You don’t see a lot of wild albinos because of that; they make great prey!

  4. silver moon responds:

    As a snake owner for many years, I personally have noticed the increased prevalance of albinos in general. As they become more popular in pet shops, the numbers invariably released into the wild are going to go up as well, it seems to me.

  5. GinnyR responds:

    Most snake morphs practically blend in to wild habitat. You don’t see a lot of wild albinos because of that; they make great prey!

    Hello every one. I’m brand new here but have been reading for about a year or so. Not sure I have spotshouse’s quote properly, if not it is my first sentence.

    I live in Broward County Fl, a long way from the ‘glades, but I have seen big snakes in my neighborhood. I want to ask what preys upon these snakes, albino or not, as it is my understanding that they have no enemies here besides cars. That is the problem.

    I know what happened to the coyotes back when government bounty was put on them, but now that Florida is passing a snake bounty I am thinking it is about time.

    The snakes have no natural enemies so shouldn’t we kill them when we find them? The idea that they are captured and found ‘homes’ makes no sense to me. Coyotes and wolves and rattlesnakes belong here, but constrictors do not.

    Keep in mind that Florida has passed a law making it a crime to shoot Bigfoot if you should run into him here. 🙂

  6. spotshouse responds:

    Thank you GinnyR; I will make my comment clearer. The reason you rarely see wild albino snakes is because as babies they are taken out as prey. They are very visible and unable to hide. Practically all predators (hawks, owls, coyotes, raccoons, opposums, turtles and more) love to eat baby snakes. With no claws, no venom and insignificant teeth, they’re an easy snack. I think there may still be some predators of large snakes such as alligators and wild hogs.
    I think the reason that these snakes are re-homed is because they are part of the pet trade in the first place.

  7. GinnyR responds:

    Thank you spotshouse.

    I was doing a little google follow-up and found a very interesting and perhaps unintentionally funny ’05 National Geographic article about Python Pete, a Beagle that was being trained to sniff out snakes in the Glades. (quote-“As he does in training, Pete will stay on a leash once he is on real missions. The aim is to keep the beagle from becoming a snake snack. “)

    Further googling of Pete yielded not much and I am wondering if this was a real story or a crypto story (lol)

    If true there is a reason for keeping some captured snakes alive…

    Quote “Oberhofer puts a captive live python in a mesh bag and drags it through a grass field for 50 feet (15 meters) to create a scent trail. There, she leaves the bagged snake and Pete’s favorite rope toy.”

    My apologies if this has already been a discussion on this site, but it is news to me. I certainly didn’t see any thing about Pete on the MonsterQuest episode about monster snakes!

    I hope Pete the Beagle is chasing nothing more than lizards in his backyard today if he exists. Although the lizards down here are getting pretty darn big as well 🙂

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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