Well, shit. I guess as Prairie Dog’s official snake guy I’ve got to post about this tragedy. From CBC:
Two children died after a python got into an apartment in Campbellton, N.B., police say. “Police are investigating two sudden deaths of two young boys,” Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh said Monday. It’s believed the snake escaped from a pet store called Reptile Ocean. The victims were boys aged five and seven. They were visiting a friend in the apartment above the store, police said in a statement released Monday. Rogers-Marsh said the preliminary investigation led police to believe that a python snake escaped its enclosure at the store sometime overnight. Initial information indicates the snake got into the ventilation system and then into the apartment upstairs. “It’s believed the two boys were strangled by the snake,” she said, noting that autopsies are scheduled for tomorrow in Saint John.
This is terrible. It’s also incredibly weird–I’ve never heard of this happening. On the rare occasion a child is killed by a pet snake (usually a Burmese or reticulated python, which is what I bet this “boa” will turn out to be), gross owner negligence–like putting a huge python in a crib with a baby–is usually involved. Breaking out of a cage, sneaking into an adjacent apartment and killing children is a new one. It’s the stuff of nightmares, for sure. Tragic all around.
UPDATE: It was apparently an especially ill-tempered African rock python– which I’ve never heard being kept as pets. CTV says the children were five and seven, and were asleep when the snake attacked. Just brutal.
UPDATE 2: CTV has mostly excellent coverage here and here. My only quibble is the conflation of commonly kept, harmless or essentially harmless pythons — like three to five foot ball pythons and large but generally extremely tame Burmese pythons — with this uncommon and possibly more aggressive animal. Again, rock pythons are exceedingly uncommon snakes in captivity. For perspective, I have met (two or three) people who have kept rattlesnakes (legally and not in cities) but I’ve never met anyone who owned a rock python. I Googled and did find one for sale in Ontario; for $250 — the sellers stated they would only sell the animal to someone with experience keeping large snakes. Rock pythons appear to be more commonly kept in the U.K. They’re rare here. This isn’t going to happen to your kids.
This incident is freakishly unique. And awful.