Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Slithering snakes fill city suite

Officials notified after reptile found in neighbour's bathroom

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When nature called early Saturday morning, Morley Wilson got quite a sssssssurprise.

A giant snake had crawled out of his toilet and was slithering along a bathroom shelf.

Wilson, 75, said Tuesday he discovered the 1.5-metre-long, black-and-orange snake after it escaped from a neighbour's place and created a "rumpus" in the bathroom of his Assiniboine Avenue apartment.

 

That led city police to discover more than 50 snakes and other reptiles in the nearby apartment of a 33-year-old man.

"There's a snake in your bathroom... what are you going to do? You call 911," said Wilson, who said he wasn't that frightened after spotting the snake and shutting the door until police arrived.

"I take great comfort in the fact that I believe that a snake would have a lot of trouble turning a door knob."

The discovery came after Wilson had called in professional help Friday to deal with toilet backups.

He actually caught a glimpse of something black in the bottom of the bowl that night.

As it turned out, the snake was likely the culprit.

The creature -- which Wilson said was as wide as his arm, slithered around his bathroom shelves, knocking things over. "... it probably weighed about 20 pounds."

Officials seized about nine snakes from the neighbour's suite. He's facing charges under the City of Winnipeg's exotic animal bylaw, said police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen.

"We're investigating why this individual has this many reptiles, snakes, in his possession," said Michalyshen, who said the man described himself as a "hobby breeder" and the creatures were "very well looked after."

However, Michalyshen said, it's believed some of the snakes are prohibited, although officials with the city's animal services department still have to determine their breed.

"They will be meeting with (the owner) and other experts to identify each breed and to determine what species they are, and whether or not he is in compliance and should be in possession of these animals," he said.

Officials could potentially be dealing with king snakes, Honduran milk snakes, different pythons, garter snakes and snapping turtles, said Michalyshen.

Animal services would neither allow images to be taken of the seized creatures, nor provide images to the Free Press. Police also did not provide pictures.

Michalyshen said officials are also concerned the snake may have been missing for "a period of time" without authorities being alerted.

Jeff McFarlane, who sells snakes as the owner of Aardvark Pets on St. Mary's Road, said it's not uncommon for a person to have a large number of snakes and reptiles.

"There are people that have more than that in the city," he said." (It) is not like having 50 cats.

"Snakes are animals that are fed between once a week to once a month, and have a very limited amount of care required," he said.

"It's not like a cat (where) you have to be scooping its litter box every day and feeding it a couple times a day."

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2011 A3

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