Residents of Warren County, Missouri, had been wondering what was behind the mysterious vanishings of local pets and livestock. Residents suspected a snake, but nobody expected the 15 feet of nope that eventually turned up.
By the time the Warren County python saga was done, residents had reported a number of dogs and chickens gone missing. There had been reports of a large snake on the loose, but the size of the python problem Warren County was dealing with was astounding.
“I was the first one to see it,” Larry Fahrig told Fox2Now St. Louis.
Fahrig saw the python when it was going after his pet poodle. He says he called to his neighbors to help, but the snake had slithered away by the time help arrived.
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The next few days saw pets locked up and livestock vanishing. One neighbor had three chickens vanish over the course of a few days, while another kept her St. Bernard-Lab mix close for fear the python would kill it.
“I was terrified,” Pauline Horstdaniel said of the morning she woke to hear her dog barking at something in the darkness. “I got my husband out of bed. He’s out there in his underwear with his gun.”
That handgun might not have been enough to stop the massive python. What eventually did stop the slithery intruder were twin blasts from a shotgun.
When the townsfolk got around to measuring the monster, it topped out at 14’7″ and tipped the scale at 160 pounds. It’s not the biggest Burmese python on record, of course – recently, one gigantic Florida python was caught that measured 18 feet – but that still doesn’t make it the sort of thing one wants to see coming out of the doghouse.
How do these things get out and grow to this size? One Department of Conservation spokesperson told Fox 2 that it tends to stem from pet owners.
Burmese pythons will often get too big for their owners, who might have bought them to hold in an aquarium or occasionally wear around their necks. When that time comes, some owners will simply dump their pythons into the wild. Since the pythons have no natural predators, they will set about feeding on local fauna, and nothing but terrified gun-wielders tends to get in their way.
Things ended poorly for this particular python, and the residents of the town aren’t exactly ecstatic that it had to come to this.
“It’s a shame that animals have to be killed because somebody just didn’t care about it,” Fahrig said.
Still, residents are still trying to make something good come of it. One woman tried to save the skin, though she admitted it was largely out of the python’s novel size.
“You only see snakes like this in the movies and at the zoo,” she said.
[Image via Joe Raedle / Getty Images]