Residents of a Chilliwack neighbourhood were briefly on the lookout for a pet who got away from its owner last Friday.
Copper, a seven-foot boa constrictor, was apparently having some outside time with its owner when it just slithered away and couldn’t be found.
Neighbours of the home where Copper lived were told that the peach-coloured snake was on the loose and was most likely in their townhouse complex east of the downtown area.
“It was the house right beside the complex I live in,” Susan Hunt said in a Facebook comment in response to a question about Copper. “It wasn’t loose for very long, but was thought to be loose in our complex, which caused panic among some owners here (my daughter included)!”
Apparently, the owner put out the word that the snake was missing. Soon after, he or she was found in a bucket in their yard.
“Super cute snake and very friendly,” Amanda Adams commented.
Boa constrictors are not dangerous to humans, even if unexpectedly spotting one in the backyard might make for a shocking experience.
The species is, however, on the list of controlled alien species as a “restricted” reptile. All boa constrictors are on that list, Copper included. If Copper, however, grew another two feet or so, he or she would fall into another category.
The reptile restriction category refers to snakes under three metres in length. Beyond that puts them into the “prohibited” category meaning owning one requires a permit to possess, breed, ship or transport in B.C.
Under the Wildlife Act, the Controlled Alien Species Regulation – which was passed in 2009 after a woman was killed by her boyfriend’s pet tiger – it is a violation to allow a snake to get loose.
“A person must not release a restricted species individual or prohibited species individual or allow a restricted species individual or prohibited species individual to be released, or to escape.”
The punishment? Penalties associated with breeding or releasing for a first-time offender are one of the following: Fines ranging from $2,500 to a maximum of $250,000; a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years.
The B.C. government designated approximately 1,200 species of animals as controlled alien species in the regulation. The list contains hundreds of animals, including poison dart frogs, giraffes, hyenas, howler monkeys, crocodiles, and a long list of snakes.
The BC SPCA, for its part, has a broad opposition to breeding and keeping exotic or wild animals at all. There are a number of reasons why, including that many are acquired for status and owners do not have consideration for specialized needs. There is also the fact that few veterinarians possess the training and experience to deal with needs of exotics.
One of the main concerns is the reality that because exotic animals are often obtained for status or the “cool” factor, some exotics become unwanted after the novelty wears off.
“The result is poor animal welfare, a high rate of euthanasia, and widespread abandonment of these animals,” according to the BC SPCA. “The Humane Society of the United States estimates that in the United States alone, 90 per cent of exotic pets die ‘within the first two years of captivity.’”