Sikeston officers put rumors of giant constrictor to rest

Thursday, June 28, 2012

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Rumors of a 20-foot snake are down the drain.

The Sikeston Department of Public Safety began receiving reports last week of a large snake in the north end of Sikeston. According to Lt. Jim McMillen, a resident in the Meadowbrook and Greenbrier area photographed a snake about 2 inches in diameter and 7 to 9 feet long from her bedroom window as it navigated through a small tree. The residence is near a tree-line drainage ditch that runs just north of the neighborhood.

"Unfortunately (or fortunately) this story has been exaggerated since the initial report," McMillen said in a news release. "Word of a 20-foot constrictor terrorizing the neighborhood got back to the reporting party. The resident said she was surprised at these larger-than-life rumors. She reiterated to me the actual size of the snake and laughed at the gossip."

Because of concerns brought to the department, McMillen said he took the three photographs the resident took of the snake and showed them to Jennifer Weaver, a naturalist at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center. Weaver confirmed the snake was a black rat snake.

According to Weaver, the black rat snake is a nonvenomous species that is native to Missouri. McMillen said she told him it is one of the largest snakes in the state with an average length 3.5 to 6 feet long.

"However some (as it appears in this case) can grow larger," McMillen said.

The black rat snake usually eats mice, small rats, birds and their eggs. The species is known for its ability to climb trees, where it will scavenge eggs from birds' nests and sometimes bask in the sun.

The naturalist said the snake is considered useful, especially to farmers because it helps control destructive rodents.

"Ms. Weaver said there was little to worry about with this species," McMillen said. "She added that this snake is not large enough to eat an adult rabbit or a small dog. Ms. Weaver said children and domestic animals have little to fear."

On Tuesday, McMillen said he spoke again with the resident who initially spotted the snake and showed her photos of a black rat snake.

"She confirmed with 100 percent certainty that this was the snake found in her back yard last week," he said.

McMillen said the snake has not been sighted recently and is believed to have returned to its natural habitat, the tree line and field located just north of this neighborhood.

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