Slithering reptile still on the loose

COLUMBIA (WACH) -Wildlife groups are trying to help a Midlands man capture a massive snake.

Wildlife Solutions volunteered Thursday, to assist Andrew Philson in a search to locate and capture a large snake.

"When I first got the pictures I sent them over to a few scientists at our company." Said Leigh Anne Williams, wildlife specialist. "They told me that it could be one of the largest snakes on record."

After several hours of searching for the reptile the crew came up short.

Andrew Philson initially received a call from his elderly neighbor Monday afternoon telling him there was a snake in his backyard. Philson wasn't concerned initially.

"If there's a snake or something, she'll call me. Usually its a garter snake, a black racer, that kind of thing. I figured that's what it was and I would just come over here and pick it up out of the bushes or something," said Philson.

When he arrived at his home on Devereaux Road in Columbia, which is near Kilbourne Road and North Beltline Blvd., he asked his neighbor where the snake was.

She pointed to a tree.

"When I saw that snake, I was like, 'Whoa.' It doesn't help that I saw Anaconda five or six days ago," Philson laughs.

Philson says it is the biggest snake he has ever seen out of captivity.

"Other people who have seen the pictures say it's a black snake...This is a 15 to 20-foot-long snake, and black snakes just don't get that long," said Philson.

Philson, who is the father of a 3-year-old boy, started making phone calls after he realized how big the snake really was.

"I called the City of Columbia Police Department to get animal control's number. Animal control doesn't do snakes, I'm told. I called DNR today, I didn't call DNR last night. They said they don't do snakes period."

Dan Phillips, Wildlife Biologist and Owner of All Things Wild, came to Philson's backyard to search for the snake after receiving calls from concerned citizens.

"Unfortunately, It's been about 24 hours since the snake was seen, and the likelihood of finding it in this yard is pretty slim. We were not able to remove it today, but the snake is still in the area, so the neighbors need to keep their eyes open. If you see the snake, please be kind. It's not a dangerous animal necessarily. It just needs to be dealt with by professionals. If you see the snake, feel free to give us a call at All Things Wild, and we can come out and take care of that for you."

Phillips says a snake that size is capable of going a mile or two, if it really wanted to. Realistically, it probably has a home range of five to 10 acres at the most, and is in probably somewhere in area of the place it was last seen.

Black snakes hunt squirrels and birds and other things that are up in trees, according to Phillips. It wouldn't be uncommon to see one go into an old garage or shed, and they do live under people's houses and in attics.

"There are lots of structures around town for a snake like that to live in," said Phillips.

Philson is skeptical about the snake being a black snake, but that isn't his biggest concern.

"If this is a black snake, it's one that big poses a significant threat to this area. It needs to be put somewhere in captivity, in the zoo, or something," said Philson. "I'm not a snake hater. I'm not just going to go kill a snake. If it's a poisonous snake, I'll kill it in a heartbeat. Non-poisonous snakes, I don't have a problem with. They do serve the environment well with keeping rats and rodents away, but a snake this big, I don't like it."

If the snake is captured, Phillips hopes that the Department of Natural Resources or the Riverbanks Zoo will consider relocating the animal.

"There are rules for professionals relocating animals, so I would have to get permission to relocate that animal," said Phillips.

Philson just wants the snake to be gone.

"My biggest concern, I just want to let everyone know that there is a huge snake, a twenty foot snake, I'm not exaggerating. This is a massive, massive snake," said Philson. "I just want him gone."

Wildlife Solutions will continue the quest to find the neighborhood nuisance.

(Rob Starkey and Drew Stewart contributed to this report.)