Snake Sighting Strikes Concerns


With the report of a nine-foot snake in their neighborhood, residents are recalling the escape of a large snake four years ago.

On Tuesday morning, Gateway mobile home park resident Mike Stoner called police to report a nine-foot snake crawling under his house. Fire department personnel responded but were unable to locate the snake. Officials believe it may have gone up into the insulation of the home.

Residents of an adjacent neighborhood are now wondering if there is a connection between this snake and a broken glass cage back in 1999.

"A women moved here four years ago and asked if it would be all right to keep a big snake," Norm Spittler, owner of the Kachina Doll mobile home park, said. "I told her she had to keep it in a cage."

The snake was listed on the lease agreement as a boa constrictor.

"She used to bring it with her when she came to pay the rent," Pam Price, a resident of the park, said. "It was 6-feet long back then and she said it was still young. The cats would take one look at that snake and go up a tree."

Spittler says the snake's owner, Lorelei Clione, had left the large glass cage on the patio one day while she was at work.

"She came to me and said somebody had broken the glass and the snake was gone. We never saw it again after that," Spittler said.

But local snake expert Marie Leonard doubts that it could be the same snake.

"A redtail boa or a ground boa could get up to 11 feet," Leonard said. "But I would find it impossible for a snake of that origin to survive in this climate for four years. It's a tropical snake and they aren't suited for this region."

Leonard and her partner Dove Gallo are part of the Humane Society's Reptile Recovery Team.

"When it's a snake -- I call them," said Diane Fitzpatrick, Humane Society Manager. "Marie volunteers here a lot and they have experience with snakes and other reptiles."

Leonard and Gallo have spent many late hours searching for the snake.

"This is what we live for," Gallo said. "Snakes are the most fascinating animals on earth."

"Snakes like this will most likely move about at dawn or dusk -- the first cool of the evening or the first warm of the morning," Leonard said. "If it did crawl up inside the insulation, it could hold out for up to a year if the conditions were right. They can even last six to eight months without water."

Leonard and Dove both think the snake has moved on, but they want to continue the search to see if they can capture and identify the snake.

"We showed (Stoner) photographs of a variety of snakes and the one he identified was a Burmese python," Leonard said. "But this is not a positive identification."

Anyone who sees the snake can call the humane society at 474-5590, or the Payson Fire Department at 474-5242, ext. 3.

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