SHARON, Mercer County - Movie fans might think a snake in an apartment wouldn’t have the shock value of the thriller “Snakes on a Plane.” Just don’t expect Debbie LaMotte to agree.
The Sharon woman said she had just answered the call of nature at about 4 a.m. Tuesday when “something on the floor” she hadn’t noticed on the way into the bathroom caught her attention.
“At first I thought it was a scarf because it had such a beautiful pattern,” the resident of Riverview Manor said. “I use a cane, so I reached out to touch it and that’s when I saw its head move.”
At that point, the 62-year old said, she found she could still move pretty fast and close the door in a hurry if she had to.
“It started poking its nose under the door while I was calling 911,” LaMotte said, describing the snake she saw as “at least 4 feet long, and probably longer.”
“They (the dispatcher) told me to try to keep it contained until the police got here so I used my cane to do that,” said the retiree who formerly worked in a medical billing office.
Three responding police weren’t eager to use their hands to pick up the snake. One of them told LaMotte it was a constrictor. Police later identified it as a ball python, a snake that constricts, or squeezes, prey to kill it before swallowing its meal.
“I gave them my old lady grabber that I use to reach things in the closet and they used it to put the snake into a bag,” LaMotte said.
She said she was startled at first but that her heart “really started racing” because of the shock of seeing a snake that shouldn’t have been on the fifth floor of an apartment.
LaMotte dismissed any possibility that the snake had been moving about in the building through plumbing pipes, saying, “he was too big around for that. He was four or five inches thick.”
LaMotte said another resident on her floor had reported seeing a snake last summer but that no one else saw it at the time. She thinks someone was keeping it as a pet and that it squeezed through the one-inch gap at the base of her door to get inside.
“I think it was in my closet next to the entrance door where I keep craft supplies,” LaMotte said. “A friend of mine was looking in there last (Monday) night and I think that’s when the snake started moving around.”
Some residents have cats and dogs, but LaMotte said she thinks company policy doesn’t allow snakes as pets.
Property manager Wendy Ryhal declined to answer questions about the policy on pets by PK Management LLC, which owns the apartment development. Calls for comment from the corporate office in Cleveland weren’t returned.
Sharon police said the snake was turned over to Gerda Widmyer of Animal Advocacy, Sharon. It was later taken to a reptile rescue group in Crawford County.
Joe Wiercinski is a reporter with The (Sharon, Pa.) Herald, which, like The Meadville Tribune, is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI).