After an SFist report about that giant snake — initially identified by the Peninsula Humane Society as a Burmese Python — that was discovered beneath a car in Pescadero, snake aficionados came calling. And, boy, they were hissing mad over what they say was an egregious misidentification of the serpent.
In case you missed it, here's the story: according to the Merc and the San Mateo Daily Journal, a passer-by saw a big snake curled up beneath a car parked outside Pescadero Elementary and Middle School. Two San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies wrangled the snake into a container, and brought it to the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, where it was identified by staff there as a Burmese Python.
Only, as snake fans apparently knew as soon as they gazed upon the photo of the snake (that's it above) that was supplied by the PHS, it wasn't a Burmese Python at all, it was a boa constrictor. First, they struck by comment:
"Oh Jesus Christ, who's the retard who called that a 'Burmese python' when it clearly is a boa constrictor?" read one.
"If that is the snake in question in the photo, this is not a Burmese python but rather a rather obese boa constrictor morph. It also does not have an 'aggravating skin condition,' it appears to be suffering from very poor humidity," read another.
...and then by email. Here's a portion of one from Meghan Shane:
1) This is a Red Tail Boa Constrictor Imperator, not at all related to the Burmese python (completely different species).
2) The vet obviously doesn't do exotics. The snake is shedding and will clear up in a matter of days and be bright and shiny.
And another, from George Clark:
Your "Burmese" article was pretty horrendous. That was a hypomelanistic boa Constrictor imperator. Our hobby is already under fire as it is, maybe you should do research and figure out what the hell you're talking about before you publicly address something.
I won't even get into the people who left messages on my voice mail. You get the picture: something was amiss with the snake's identification, and these snake lovers weren't willing to let SFist slither out of it.
And you know what? They were right, I learned when I called PHS spokesperson Scott Delucchi.
"They're right, it is a boa constrictor," Delucchi told me over the phone.
"We're not snake experts," he said by way of explanation, "and we were not spending a lot of time with the snake by design, as we wanted to allow it to calm down."
Interestingly enough, the PHS had initially identified the snake as a boa, but "we had two people who were very passionate that it was a Burmese python," so that's why they made that designation, Delucchi said.
Since the story broke, however they've determined that the snake is, as suspected by our readers, a boa that's presently shedding. They're not certain of the specific sub-species, but Delucchi agreed that the possibilities presented by our correspondents are all good ones.
Regarding reader assertions that the snake's size was misrepresented in the original reportage, Delucchi reiterated that PHS staffers have been leaving the snake to itself to calm down, and that the size estimates came from the San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies who initially nabbed the snake.
"When it seemed as upset as it did, we didn't want to upset it even more by putting it on a scale," Delucchi said.
The best news of all is that, Delucchi says, PHS is arranging transfer for the boa to a local rescuer known for their efforts in re-homing snakes.
"What started out as a bizarre story is having a happy ending," Delucchi said. "That's all we can ask for."