Rescuer says snake escape was no accident

When Dante, the 14 foot long, 80 pound Burmese P ython was found on Wednesday after two days of freedom, he was exactly where Maxman Reptile Rescue's Diana Sleiertin had predicted he would be: lying in the muck of the canal, about 50 yards behind her house on the outskirts of Jordan.

Dante's cage, along with four other reptile enclosures located in Sleiertin's lawn, had been vandalized on Monday, the security straps sliced and gates propped open. Dante slithered out, and a young iguana recovering from near-starvation also escaped.

The iguana has not been found; Sleiertin does not expect it to survive.

Terror level: elevated

Sleiertin said when she arrived home Monday and found the damaged cages, she immediately contacted state police.

Then, she had to break the news to her neighbors.

I've always been very open with my neighbors about what animals I have here, Sleiertin said.

Regardless, she said she was not surprised by people's negative reactions, but she had not expected so many positive and supportive comments, or the number of phone calls she received, offers of help, sometimes from strangers.

Frequenting forums and message boards online, Sleiertin read posts from terrified residents who claimed it was no longer safe to leave children outside unattended by the canal - so long as there was a p ython on the loose.

Though comments like these are frustrating, Sleiertin has come to expect them.

Most people don't see them (reptiles) as animals, she said.

But how much danger were neighbors - and their pets - really in while Dante was on the lam?

Sleiertin reminds those unfamiliar with pythons that reptiles are cold blooded, and being unable to raise their body temperatures in the relatively cold environment, Dante was very disinclined to travel long distances or expend energy trying to catch prey.

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