What's that in the spare room? Snake!

apartment snake closeup

You don't mind if I stay here a few days, right?

When you rent an older apartment, you kinda have to expect a few unwanted visitors: some odd bugs, maybe a mouse -- a bat, if you're unlucky.

But a three-foot-long white snake?

No way. No. @#$%. Way.

Gillian Gay and Jesse Crescent

Gillian Gay and Jesse Crescent -- both UAlbany seniors -- said they heard their Bengal cat, Enzio, rustling with something in the spare bedroom of their Morris Street apartment Monday night. So Gillian got up to check it out.

"And then I heard a scream," Jesse says.

Enzio -- and then Gillian -- had found what would turn out to be a three-foot-long albino corn snake in the spare room. Gillian said Enzio jumped from the middle of the room up onto the bed and was ready for action.

"He's a pretty badass cat," she says. "Yeah, he would have fought him," Jesse adds.

Thankfully, it didn't come to that. They grabbed the cat and, as they described it, barricaded themselves in another room.

OK, let's stop right here and consider the situation

Corn snakes -- albino or otherwise -- are not native to upstate New York (their habitat includes the southern US, as far north as southern New Jersey). They're non-venomous. They kill their prey -- usually rodents -- by constricting them.

So what's it doing in Gillian and Jesse's apartment?

Kenneth Barnett -- a wildlife expert from Wilton who identified the snake for AOA (we sent him a photo) -- says the snake is almost certainly an escaped pet. He said this variety (known as a "snow" corn snake) has been bred specifically for the pet trade -- and it's very popular with snake people.

But Gillian and Jesse are not snake people. "That's my biggest fear, snakes," Jesse says.

Snake in the guest bedroom, now what?

Ethan Ullman with snakeSo, it's around 1 am and Gillian and Jesse -- along with Enzio -- have sealed themselves off from the snake. They call the non-emergency number for the Albany police. The dispatcher tells them to call a pest control service -- no answer. Then they called animal control -- again, no answer. They called the APD again and the dispatcher said she wasn't sure what to tell them -- that maybe they could send a car over.

So, they called their friend Ethan Ullman, a UAlbany junior. And Ethan came to the rescue.

"I grew up in Averill Park, kind of a country area," Ethan says. "Anytime we saw a snake we'd pick it up and play with it."

"He's a good friend," says Gillian.

With Ethan's help, they located the snake again. Gillian found it by poking a pile of sheets with a Swiffer handle -- she says she screamed again and then pointed it out with a laser pointer.

Ethan scooped up the snake into a plastic flour container. He then went to Price Chopper and bought a clear plastic trash can for the snake and poked holes in the lid for air. He secured the top with duct tape. "The duct tape gave me peace of mind," he says.

Ethan's now looking for a home for the snake.

So... this is unusual, right? (Please say yes)

apartment snake in canKenneth Barnett -- the wildlife expert -- says he gets called about 10 times a year for a snake that's shown up, uninvited, somewhere in the Capital Region. Many times the snakes are native species that just wandered in.

But he says he's noticed lately that more of his calls are for non-native species. He was recently called to Schenectady after police got a call about "a large white serpent" on someone's lawn. It turned out to be an albino California king snake. And earlier in the summer, he was called to pick up a South American boa constrictor.

Barnett says reptile keeping has gotten more popular as a hobby over the last decade, so there are more of these exotic snakes around. And he says the warm summer might have prompted more of them to escape, which he says they're very good at.

Gillian and Jesse say this week wasn't the first time they had seen the corn snake. About a month ago they noticed Enzio tapping on a window, so they looked out and saw the snake in the ivy that clings to the side of the apartment building. And they had heard that a neighbor upstairs had previously found the snake and tossed it out a window.

They say they're both from relatively rural areas, but this is the closest encounter they've had with a snake -- a fact they find kind of odd, considering it happened right in the middle of Albany.

Coincidentally, they're moving out of the apartment this week. They seem pretty happy about that. Said the Jesse on Tuesday: "I didn't sleep last night. I kept thinking [the snake] was still in the apartment."


Aw, he's cute. I wants him, but my apartment is too small for a terrarium.

I'm honestly not sure how unusual corn snakes are. While this particular albino snake was almost certainly a pet at some point, when my parents moved to Schoharie County in the early '90s, there was a rather large corn snake curled up and sunning itself on the back steps on the day they moved in. (My mom was less than thrilled.) Some of the farmers in that area have reported corn snakes in their fields, although I'm not sure how common that is.

But as you guys said, corn snakes are harmless to humans. It's the copperheads and rattlesnakes, both of which are native to the area, that you should rightly be scared of.

Kim, Cool stutff. Just pipping in. Corn snakes are native from southern N.J south to FLA in the east. Our common milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum is commonly mistaken for a corn snake. However corn snakes are native from southern N.J. south to Florida. Of course you still could have seen an escaped pet in Schoharie County.


Ah, that makes sense! Thanks, Kenny!

That Ethan kid is brave....I hate snakes! What a great friend to jump out of bed at 1am to rescue his friends!

Umm..where on Morris? (I live on Morris.) Hoping it is at the other end.

Oh hell no.

Dude, had to do a double-take there!

Last time I saw one of those albino snakes, it was actually in Oswego (see Jesse's shirt.) He was kept in a large tank by zoology major who drove an El Camino. (The odd things our brains remember?!)

The S. American boa Kenny found is now happily rehomed with me; he's a big, friendly, beautiful snake who needs some TLC after his big adventure.

I have several friends in the area with snow corn snakes, and have helped a few people adopt corn snakes. They're totally harmless, and can be really great pets.

However, snakes are AMAZING escape artists, and you really need to get the right enclosure to keep them from getting out. When I help someone add a snake to their family, we work together to find the right enclosure with LOCKING doors or lid because they are so talented at escaping. Some snakes are super lazy and can't be bothered to go more than a couple feet before curling up and taking a nap after getting out (ball pythons). Other snakes are a bit more adventurous, like corn snakes, so you don't want to take any chances!

I'd be happy to recommend a good cage for a pet snake--smaller species do well in appropriately sized glass terrariums with front-opening (and latching!) doors, such as the ones made by Zoo Med or Exo-Terra. For big boas, I prefer something a little stronger; my husband custom builds our own large enclosures with his awesome carpentry skills (he's got a backlog--has to build cages for our tegus, three big boas--one of these cages is a gift to my assistant, who has a lovely big girl--and the chameleons), but Vision cages are incredibly strong and secure if you want something commercially available. When you're thinking about a tank and screen top, the above terrariums are actually cost-effective in comparison.

We are also able to take calls to identify and remove snakes, if needed; my website is listed above.

Lastly: I want to see a picture of badass cat Enzio! I adore cats, and bengals are so pretty :) We have cats ourselves, and have fostered for Robin's Nest and Cat Tales. Cats rule :)

Snake owners graduating from college are often forbidden to take their pets home with them. I remember a friend of a friend going through this when we graduated...he called, zoos, museums, and pet stores and no one would take his 9ft. long python. He finally did find someone to take her, but I would not be surprised if some owners simply release them into the "wild". Ugh. HeebieJeebies remembering sitting on the couch feeling like someone was watching me, then turning to look to my side and being eye level with Delilah the python. The "Beware: Snake Loose in House" sign on the front door probably prevented robberies in addition to reminding frequent visitors and careless housemates to close the door. Yuck.

For those of you interested in the heroes (Enzio and I) check us out on Facebook!

Enzio: http://www.facebook.com/enziothecat
Ethan: http://www.facebook.com/ethanullmancomedy

This was definitely a freaky night. We sort of figured it was non-poisonous, but dangerous or not, definitely not a creature you'd want hanging in the bedroom. Words seriously can't express how amazing a friend Ethan is. Definitely my hero of the week (He also helped us move!)

KM, it was in between Lake and Quail on Morris at the Commodore. Fortunately, "Lee Harvey Snakewald" is far away from there!

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