Denver, CO – Thieves managed to steal an SUV full of snakes, reptiles, and spiders from a Walmart parking lot, NBC News reports. When “Wildman Phil” Rakoci, a guy who brings these creatures to various schools and parties, stopped off for a few items on his way from Colorado to Arizona, he had no idea his friends would be stolen by a group of unscrupulous bandits.
Although keeping his SUV running while he visited Walmart for supplies may not have been a particularly good idea, Rakoci had the animals’ best interested at heart. The engine, he explained, was left on to keep his companions warm. It’s hard to fault a guy who was doing something for the benefit of his animals.
“They’re not just props, they’re live animals. They know me. I know them,” Wildman Phil said. “It’s pretty tough. I don’t care; keep the suburban, the stuff in it. I just want to get the animals back and have them live through this.”
In addition to Rakoci’s personal belongings, the SUV also contained a 13-foot Burmese python, a rattlesnake, five non-poisonous snakes, three scorpions, five lizards, two turtles, one gecko, and one tarantula. This may explain why the thieves later dumped the stolen vehicle.
Among the snakes and reptiles hanging out inside the stolen SUV was Stumpy, a three-legged turtle with a wheel for a leg. The 50-pound African tortoise was left on his doorstep years ago, prompting the animal lover to surgically install a bracket on the turtle’s stump in order to attach a wheel. Stumpy, meanwhile, seems quite happy with his makeshift leg.
According to KDVR, police found the SUV abandoned just a few hours after it was lifted from the Walmart parking lot. Fortunately for “Wild Phil” Rakoci, Stumpy and all of his companions were found safe and sound.