- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A 9-foot boa constrictor accidentally killed in a park southeast of New Orleans was probably an abandoned pet, a reptile rescuer said Wednesday.

Boas are docile but do get big, said Randy Jones, a bartender and snake rescuer who has owned and bred snakes for 35 years.

Boas that aren’t handled regularly can “get aggressive, so people get scared of them and they turn them loose,” he said.

A Bush Hog mower working in foot-high grass ran over the snake Tuesday, said Lt. Eric Becnel, spokesman for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Office.

“The tractor driver thought it was a rope he ran over in the grass. … When he got up beneath the Bush Hog mower, he found the snake,” Becnel said. He said its head and body had been cut.

The incident occurred at a park in the unincorporated community of Davant, about 30 miles southeast of New Orleans.

The Audubon Zoo gets about one call a month from someone who bought a baby boa or Burmese python and wants to find it a bigger home, said Nick Hanna, the zoo’s assistant curator of reptiles. “If we took all the ones people want us to, we couldn’t keep the species that need more work conservation-wise.”

He said he identified the snake killed Tuesday from a photograph as a red-tailed boa, a species that eats rats, mice, rabbits and other small animals and is native to Central and South America. It was a female, because males don’t get that big, he said.

He wouldn’t guess at whether the snake was released or escaped.

But he agreed with Jones that the boa got loose sometime this year, because even Louisiana winters are too cold for boa constrictors.

“South Florida has some populations of them, along with Burmese pythons. But anything out of South Florida, when it gets to winter, they’re just not going to survive,” Hanna said.

Becnel said that if the mowing crew had seen the snake earlier, deputies might have caught it or called someone who could do so.

Jones, who lives in Buras in Plaquemines Parish, takes nonnative reptiles he rescues to Southern Comfort Reptile and Wildlife Rescue in Poplarville, Miss.

“If they’d called me before it was killed, I’d’ve come and picked it up,” Jones said.

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