“It is very unusual.”
That’s what Lt. Mike Brandt of the Florence Police Department said to The State about a report of shoplifting in which a man stole a snake — by shoving the red-tail boa constrictor down his pants before leaving the pet store.
The shoplifting occurred Aug. 10. The owner said the suspect, a man described as 35-40 years-old, entered the pet store and went to the area where the snake was located, Brandt reported.
According to Brandt, the owner then heard a noise, which was initially believed to be a rat moving in a cage. But when the owner walked toward the cage, the “suspect was acting suspiciously.”
The suspect hurried out of the store, and the owner then noticed that the snake cage had been tampered with, Brandt said.
After the suspect left the store, the owner reviewed surveillance footage. The owner “saw the suspect conceal a snake in his pants and leave the store,” according to Brandt.
The police did not know the age or size of the stolen red-tailed boa constrictor.
Red-tail boa constrictors can grow to as long as 10 feet, and typically reach full size within 3 to 5 years, according to a Petco care sheet on the animal. They can live up to 20 years with proper care, Petco said.
Although the red-tail boa is not a poisonous snake, they can — and have — killed humans, as National Geographic reported on in January.
“We know large constrictors can be dangerous to people. It seems like every few years a person is killed by a large boa constrictor or python, usually a captive snake, but once in a while a snake in the wild,” said Brad Moon, an expert on how snakes kill by constriction, according to National Geographic.
While red-tail boas are popular pets because of “their typically docile temperament,” they can seriously hurt a human by constricting or biting, The Spruce Pets reported.
So in addition to asking for the community’s help in identifying the shoplifting suspect, police also might want to keep an eye on Florence-area hospitals for leads.
Brandt said the suspect is wanted for larceny, and was not aware if there were any other charges related to stealing a living animal. He also did not say if there were any potential animal abuse charges related to stuffing the snake down his pants.
He did say it was a “very odd occurrence” for a living animal to be stolen from a PeeDee pet store. This store has not reported any other animal shoplifting incidents in more than three years, and none of the other pet stores in the area had reported an animal being stolen in the past year.
“Only goods, not pets have been reported stolen,” Brandt said.