There are species one expects to come across while running the woodland trails behind Nanaimo, but a large boa constrictor wouldn’t be one of them.
Stefanie Irwin was on a run Sunday when she happened upon a dead boa constrictor in a ditch beside the trail about 12 minutes into her run from the parking lot at the end of Jameson Road.
Irwin spends a lot of time in the wilderness and said she’s used to encountering wildlife, but encountering the boa constrictor was disconcerting.
“I mountaineer a fair bit and I run into cougars and bears and what not, but that was quite unusual so I was taken back a little bit, but it was dead,” Irwin said. “I think if it was alive I would have been a little more fearful.”
Irwin said she couldn’t determine how long the snake was, but it was heavy and appeared larger than images of the snakes people who responded to her social media post have been sending her.
“A lot of it was still in the mud, but its circumference was quite hefty, more than the ones I’ve seen that people have been sending me,” she said.
Irwin said she and another person on the trail tried to pull the snake’s body from the ditch with a stick, but it was too heavy. She returned Monday to the spot where she discovered the snake to try to get a second photograph that could give an idea of its size, but the carcass was gone.
“I’m pretty sure conservation went and got it … I wouldn’t think it would slither off on its own, though. It looked pretty dead,” she said.
Leon Davis, Nanaimo SPCA shelter manager, said if the snake was abandoned alive it would be considered a cruelty to animals case by the B.C. SPCA.
“They can travel pretty fast, so it’s possible that it was dumped a lot closer than where it was,” Davis said.
Davis said it’s also possible the snake was dead and its owner needed a way to dispose of the body.
“Because you’re not allowed to dump this in your garbage,” he said.
Davis said he has seen reptiles escape in the past, which is another possibility, but never something this large. This particular snake was unofficially identified as a common boa constrictor, which can grow to about 2.4 metres in length.
All boa constrictors appear on the B.C. Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations list of controlled alien species as restricted species that require a licence once they grow longer than three metres.
Sgt. Stuart Bates, B.C. conservation officer, said conservation officers did not attend the scene to collect the body.
“Oh, if a bear found it, it would be gone,” Bates said.
He estimates the snake was dead when it was dumped and recently, given the state of decomposition. Had the boa constrictor – a tropical species – been released alive in the summer, it wouldn’t survive the winter.
“We don’t want people doing that with any pet or any animal where there’s people walking because you’re going to attract bears and cougars there,” he said. “We would never want anyone to let any animal go alive … we don’t want people doing that with any species. I mean, you look at the species on Vancouver Island that people have let go. In Victoria, grey squirrels, which are now in Qualicum. Bullfrogs, which are now in Port Alberni, that I know of, and rabbits.”
Anyone with information about who might have owned the snake and possibly abandoned it in the woods is asked to call the B.C. SPCA provincial call centre at 1-855-622-7722.