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Burglar nabs lizard, 3 snakes from science museum; 1 3-foot-long python remains at large

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FRESNO, Calif. - Three of four reptiles that were swiped from a science museum and thrown together into a garbage bag during a heist were recovered Friday, though a 3-foot-long ball python remained at large, officials said.

The 3 1/2-foot savannah monitor lizard, a 7-foot-long red-tailed boa constrictor and another 3-foot-long ball python were in good condition, said Mary Ellen Wright, the director of the Fresno Discovery Center. Authorities were searching for the missing python in an area frequented by a suspect, who has been arrested.

Wright had been worried about the reptiles' confinement together in the bag "because they are mortal enemies," she said.

"It would be like throwing two pit bulls in a locked room," she added, noting that the monitor lizard has sharp, 2-inch claws.

The reptiles were taken in a robbery that has perplexed museum officials and authorities, who have not released a motive.

Fresno Police Lt. Donald Gross said Friday Devin Michael Madej, 20, was arrested on suspicion of burglary and possession of stolen property.

The museum's education co-ordinator, Ian Goudelock, said the burglar didn't appear to be out to intentionally hurt the animals though the museum planned to have the reptiles checked by a veterinarian.

"It's just a strange theft. We're still trying to figure out why," he said. "It does kind of more or less have a happy ending."

Surveillance video showed the burglar broke into the Central California museum sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday, smashed the tanks that held the four reptiles — worth hundreds of dollars — and popped them into a garbage bag.

He also went into the centre's gift shop and stole children's toys, the phone system and the security monitor, the Fresno Bee reported.

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Information from: The Fresno Bee, http://www.fresnobee.com

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