SHIRLEY — A Van Buren County man’s pet snake that escaped in July is still at large — it’s a 10-foot red-tailed boa constrictor.
“Unfortunately, no, it’s not been found,” said Keith Stephens, chief of communications for the Arkansas
Game and Fish Commission.
Clint Frye, who lives on Banner Mountain in Shirley, called the agency for help in locating the
boa constrictor, whose name is Red.
Frye said via text message that Red, whom Frye has had for just over a year, was soaking in a blow-up pool in the backyard and got away.
“I had put him out like I did every day and had gone to my shed to get the Weed Eater and realized it had no line on it, so I put a new line on it,” Frye said. “I went to check on him, and he wasn’t there. I wasn’t really worried at first, because unless he’s eating, he pretty much keeps a snail’s pace. But once he got to the tall grass, between that and his camouflage, it was like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Frye said the boa constrictor made a good pet.
“He didn’t bark and was good home security,” Frye said. “I’ve just always been fascinated with [snakes], and as scary as people think they are, the right snake can be a pet for 20 years.”
Stephens said these boa constrictors can live even longer.
“They can live up to 30 years, and the length of the snake — this obviously is at the large end of the spectrum for boa constrictors,” he said.
Kelly Irwin, the commission’s herpetologist, said he’s not sure how long the snake really is, because most of these snake species are 7 to 8 feet long.
Frye said Red liked being outdoors and resisted going back inside.
“He would fuss a little bit. … He knew I was taking him back to the tank because he would stretch out and grab anything he could to wrap around so I wouldn’t take him back in, so he was a little tricky sometimes,” Frye said.
Stephens said it’s the first time in his 19-year tenure with the AGFC that he can remember getting a call about a lost boa constrictor, although a woman once called about finding the skin of a big snake, which he thinks was a boa constrictor.
He said Frye’s boa constrictor is likely close by in the area where it escaped.
“It’s very rural, a lot of timber,” Stephens said. “They don’t move around much; they’re real slow, methodical creatures. It’s probably near where he lost it.
“They like to be in an area no warmer than 90 degrees, no cooler than 70. It’s hard to find that in Arkansas, especially lately,” he said in September. “It probably found a hole or something to get into. It’s amazing what kind of areas they can get into.”
Boa constrictors, which are large, heavy-bodied, nonvenomous snakes, kill prey by squeezing it. They are found in the wild in Central America and South America. Stephens said the snake probably won’t survive the winter if it’s not found.
Irwin said in the original press release that “based on information provided by the snake’s owner, [the snake] is used to being around people and is not aggressive, but it needs to be left alone.”
“One 8 to 9 feet could easily eat your Chihuahua or small pet,” he said.
And, Irwin said earlier this month, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission needs to be contacted immediately if the snake is seen, “and we would dispatch somebody to deal with it or contact the owner. People don’t need to mess with it.”
Stephens said most people won’t have trouble abiding by that guideline.
“Most people are quite startled by snakes; this is quite large,” he said. “This isn’t something you would see in Arkansas, so that factor is startling. It’s something you may see in a zoo.”
Stephens said this type of boa constrictor eats small prey. “Then [the snake] won’t eat again for months.”
“They’re looking at eating small rodents. They’re not going to go out and grab an adult and constrict them to death,” Stephens said.
But the snake might give someone who finds it a heart attack.
Frye said the snake is docile and never showed aggression.
“Never once in the time I had Red was I bit,” he said.
“We would encourage anybody who does have an issue similar to this to make sure and let us know,” Stephens said. “We don’t want to be surprised by something like this. ‘Hey, there’s a snake in the middle of the road; it looks very large.’ It would stretch across the road.
“Releasing nonnative species in the wild — that’s a concern for us. We don’t want anything in here that’s not native to the state.”
The number to report animal sightings or findings is (800) 482-9262.
The boa constrictor is likely gone for good, though, Stephens said.
“It’s not like a dog; they’re not going to remember where their home is,” he said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-5671 or email@example.com.