Kentucky reptile shop owner Terry Wilkins was cleaning the cage of a 125-pound, 20-foot-long breeding python Monday when he suddenly found himself wrapped in its deadly coils.
Gary Collins, who owns a skate shop down the street from the Captive Born Reptiles shop in Newport, Kentucky, said he left his business to find a girl outside beating on the window, screaming “‘A snake got him, a snake got him,'” WCPO reported.
He went inside to find a harrowing scene that has scarred him for life: Wilkins in the clutches of the python.
The python grabbed hold of him in a split second as he was cleaning its cage, witness Melissa McElfresh told WLWT. At the time, the Kentucky resident was helping Terry by distracting the python.
“I saw the snake’s head turn and I told him, I said, ‘Terry be careful; he’s looking at you,’ and he said, ‘It’s all right,’ and no sooner he said that, just as quick as lightning.”
Terry had been wounded in the neck, and the python began to wrap around his body. She called 911, and officers arrived mere minutes later to find the Kentucky shop owner lying on the ground, a puddle of blood nearby, lifeless, and according to police, not breathing, the Cincinnati Inquirer added. The python was wrapped around his torso, head, and neck.
One of the officers knew snakes well enough to remember that shooting it would’ve made it constrict tighter. So they got to work unwrapping the python from the victim’s body, explained Lt. Greg Rapberger.
“I grabbed its head. We started pulling on the snake — kind of straightening it out. At that point in time, Sgt. (Daron) Arnberg — as I’m pulling — he started loosening the coils around the guy, and finally the snake came out and we were able to put it back in the cage.”
Officers were able to get the man breathing afterward and sent him on the hospital.
Terry later explained his unconsciousness by saying that he tripped over the snake while it wrapped around his legs and hit his head. And while the sight of a grown man bleeding, unconscious, and wrapped in the deadly coils of a python was no doubt terrifying for those who arrived to save his life, his daughter insisted his life was never in danger.
Keiko Wilkins posted an update — and a criticism of the media’s over exaggeration of the incident — on the Kentucky’s store’s Facebook page.
“He did not almost die or die as people have been saying. Secondly, the inaccurate news articles are spreading like rapid fire and we ask that people ignore them and inform others that they are inaccurate. We all know how the news media likes to exaggerate about everything and make a situation seem ten times worse than it actually is.”
A worker at the Kentucky shop said the bite was minor, and though animal control and police are working together to determine whether the reptile should remain at Captive Born Reptiles, a worker there told the Washington Post that there was no reason not to keep him.
The snake was a breeding animal and thus unaccustomed to being handled, which could explain why he attacked Terry.
Though the Kentucky man and his daughter have downplayed the incident, at the very least the potential for danger was there. According to NBC News, a python kills its prey by wrapping its body around its prey, slowly asphyxiating them or cutting off blood flow.
The Kentucky business owner has been interviewed before about his relationship to reptiles and has previously told NPR that he’s kept them as pets since childhood.
“[I]n my upbringing, a reptile is no different than a cat, a bird or a dog,” he explained.
Tim Harrison, a former police officer and animal protection advocate, disagrees vehemently. After all, in the wild, a python can kill impalas and leopards.
“I would rather handle a rattlesnake than a 15-foot python. Once a python gets a hold of you, a man my size, a pro football player … he’s not getting away. What makes us think we can bring them into our homes and make a pet out of a large predatory animal?”
[Photo Courtesy Zhukov Oleg / Shutterstock]