A Snake Escapes From A New Brunswick Pet Store And Kills Two Children

Well, shit. I guess as Prairie Dog’s official snake guy I’ve got to post about this tragedy. From CBC:

Two children died after a python got into an apartment in Campbellton, N.B., police say. “Police are investigating two sudden deaths of two young boys,” Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh said Monday. It’s believed the snake escaped from a pet store called Reptile Ocean. The victims were boys aged five and seven. They were visiting a friend in the apartment above the store, police said in a statement released Monday. Rogers-Marsh said the preliminary investigation led police to believe that a python snake escaped its enclosure at the store sometime overnight. Initial information indicates the snake got into the ventilation system and then into the apartment upstairs. “It’s believed the two boys were strangled by the snake,” she said, noting that autopsies are scheduled for tomorrow in Saint John.

This is terrible. It’s also incredibly weird–I’ve never heard of this happening. On the rare occasion a child is killed by a pet snake (usually a Burmese or reticulated python, which is what I bet this “boa” will turn out to be), gross owner negligence–like putting a huge python in a crib with a baby–is usually involved. Breaking out of a cage, sneaking into an adjacent apartment and killing children is a new one. It’s the stuff of nightmares, for sure. Tragic all around.

UPDATE: It was apparently an especially ill-tempered African rock python– which I’ve never heard being kept as pets. CTV says the children were five and seven, and were asleep when the snake attacked. Just brutal.

UPDATE 2: CTV has mostly excellent coverage here and here. My only quibble is the conflation of commonly kept, harmless or essentially harmless pythons — like three to five foot ball pythons and large but generally extremely tame Burmese pythons — with this uncommon and  possibly more aggressive animal. Again, rock pythons are exceedingly uncommon snakes in captivity. For perspective, I have met (two or three) people who have kept rattlesnakes (legally and not in cities) but I’ve never met anyone who owned a rock python. I Googled and did find one for sale in Ontario; for $250 — the sellers stated they would only sell the animal to someone with experience keeping large snakes. Rock pythons appear to be more commonly kept in the U.K. They’re rare here. This isn’t going to happen to your kids.

This incident is freakishly unique. And awful.


Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

25 thoughts on “A Snake Escapes From A New Brunswick Pet Store And Kills Two Children”

  1. Wild animals behave like wild animals, wherever they happen to be. This was bound to happen, sooner or later. Humans are to blame for dragging this aggressive creature into an alien environment, where it simply acted out of instinct.

  2. I’m big on people keeping many types of exotic animals but a lot of responsibility comes with that. Rule number freaking one: don’t let your potentially dangerous animals get loose. That goes double if they’re aggressive.

    No one should keep animals they’re not capable of caring for. These people were clearly in over their heads.

  3. Hi. Starlings ( the bird ), are not natural to anywhere in Canada. but they are here because some shithead from Britian,thought they were are great to show off at some sort of agribition, or World Fair, back in the 1920’s . they are the black birds about 1/2 the size of & look like Crows..

  4. There isn’t enough space on this page to list the imported animals that have wrought havoc in their new environments. Ron cited the English starling; another example is bullfrogs on Vancouver island. They were imported for gastronomic reasons; then, when the frogs’ legs market tanked, the frogs were let loose. They are murder on the native species, and are so well established that even years of attempted removal have proved to be in vain.

    This is a far cry from a reptile capable of killing children, but it’s all part of the same problem: humans, for economic or ego reasons (the smaller the penis, the bigger the snake?), want to be owners and not stewards of wildlife.

    And aren’t the Burmese pythons the ones wrecking the Florida Everglades?

  5. Barb:

    havoc, to wreak. Although the phrases create havoc, make havoc, play havoc, and work havoc were once common, the usual phrase today is wreak havoc. The past tense is wreaked havoc, not *wrought havoc (as many writers mistakenly think)…” Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage.

    wreak (third-person singular simple present wreaks, present participle wreaking, simple past wreaked, wrought (erroneously), or rarelywroke, past participle wreaked, wrought (erroneously) or rarely wroken)
    “It has become common to use
    wrought, the original past tense and participle for work, as the past tense and past participle for wreak, as in wrought havoc (i.e. worked havoc for wreaked havoc), due both to the fact that the weak form worked has edged out wrought from its former role almost entirely (except as an adjective referring usually to hand-worked metal goods), and via confusion from the wr- beginning both wreak and wrought, and probably by analogy with seek).” From Wiktionary, http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/wreak.

  6. A variant on Murphy’s? ;-)

    So does that mean that the quotation “What hath God wrought?” is ungrammatical?

  7. Barb: don’t get me ranting about invasive species or this edition of PD will never get to the printer! Florida is a place where there WAS a legitimate case to ban a lot of reptiles (and other tropical exotic pets). They’ve got (at least) dozens of invasive species established now, from brown anoles to green iguanas to Burmese and POSSIBLY even rock pythons. Those genies are unfortunately out of the bottle, and there’s no point in Florida banning Burms now (though they did).

    In all seriousness, our climate makes Saskatchewan a perfect place for exotic pets. Virtually nothing could get established in the wild if it escaped–our winters are too harsh.

  8. “What hath God wrought?” is perfectly grammatical, though doubly archaic: hath is an archaic form of the third-person singular simple present indicative has, while wrought is an archaic form of the simple past tense and past participle worked.

    Atheist Brad wouldn’t let me submit this comment without a parting snipe about how the third word is archaic as well. Sorry!

  9. Not sure there’s anything wrong with “wrought havoc.”

    OED says this of one sense of “work”:

    10. To effect, bring about, bring to pass; to accomplish, achieve; to cause, produce. (In early use often approaching sense 1) Esp. in phr. to work havoc , where the pa. tense wrought is common (though it is often interpreted as the pa. tense of wreak: cf. wreak v. 8b).

    One historical example is this from Dickens:

    1841 Dickens Old Curiosity Shop i. xxvi. 239 The beer had wrought [that is, worked] no bad effect upon his appetite.

    “wroken” and “wrokin” show up in Middle English and Middle Scots as past participles of “wreak,” but as a form of “work,” “wrought” seems okay in “wrought havoc.”

  10. Steve: I wrote and deleted an intro to the quotes I provided, in which I noted that — while technically grammatically correct — ‘wrought havoc’ is distractingly archaic. Both ‘to work havoc’ and ‘wrought’ for ‘worked’ (except in the special case of worked metals) have largely gone the way of the dodo. In regular discourse, the past form of ‘wreak’ is what is meant. Thus, the appropriate word is ‘wreaked’.

    In further support of my assumption that ‘wreaked’ was what Barb meant, I offer the assertion that ‘to work’ in the sense of ‘to work havoc’, ‘to work evil’ or ‘to work iron’ implies a level of agency and concerted effort that I doubt could be attributed to such a thing as the class of ‘imported animals’.

  11. A big snake killed 2 kids. The damage is already done to a species whom many people already fear & hate so much. Sure, blame the folks whose kids were killed, its always someone’s fault and not the snake’s?

  12. “It’s always someone’s fault and not the snake’s?”

    I don’t understand what you mean. Animals can’t be blamed for being animals. Snakes don’t make choices. They’re snakes.

  13. @Brad I don’t know what “distractingly archaic” means. The OED calls the past tense “wrought” common in the phrase. From what have we been distracted?

    Also, I agree with Whitworth that whatever happened in my home province of New Brunswick was not the fault of the snake. Animals aren’t Vulcans, and don’t reason things out before acting.

    Raised in an aquarium, female guppies, mollies and swordtails may try to eat their newborn fry. Are they to be blamed? Animals don’t reason as we do, and so cannot be held to the moral standards human being espouse.

    In my opinion, the moral responsibility here lies with the reasoning humans who ought to have made sure that a 14 ft, 100 lb snake was in no position to harm two young boys.

  14. Yes SW, I agree 100% with you this snake was using it’s predator/hunting/survival instincts & found those 2 sleeping vulnerable kids as easy meal targets. A snake is not a person. What irks me is the blame game going on right now by those seeking someone at fault.

    The evidence is a snake killed 2 boys, so it is at fault even though you can’t blame it for being a snake. Or just call it a freak of nature accident, but stop the blame game.

  15. Lesson learnt here: Do not keep snakes as pets. Snakes are not pets. Snakes are wild animals. They have not had a millennia of domestication like cats and dogs. You can’t pet a snake, they sleep a lot, why would you keep a snake as a pet? It’s not good enough to say “Makes me look cool”, it doesn’t, it makes you look like an ignorant fool. Exotic pets should be banned and keeping snakes and lizards of the non-exotic verity should be discouraged into being made into pets.

  16. Thank you for the comment, Yasmin. Those are your awful values and you have a right to them. I hope you won’t arrogantly attempt to force them on others. My life, and many, many others’ people’s lives, are much richer for living with snakes and other reptiles. I resent being told I look like an “ignorant fool” for keeping pets that you don’t understand or value, and I take offence at your insinuation that people like me only keep them to be “cool”.

    Which, by the way, I am.

  17. @MB: I’ve softened my position. This was so weird and so unusual that I’m going to stop making assumptions (I know, crazy, right?) about this tragedy. We just don’t know what happened, or how it happened. The lesson to be learned,if there is one, is that giant snakes are potentially dangerous and require resources and expertise, and 99 per cent of reptile fans shouldn’t keep them.

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