Pet snake is harmless, says reptile's owner

Published on May 7, 2013
Kenny Oliver of Truro, with Titus, a seven-foot-long Central American red tail boa constrictor says his pet is safe and there is no cause for alarm if someone sees him walking around town with the creature around his neck.
HARRY SULLIVAN - TRURO DAILY NEWS

TRURO - "Whooaa," six-year-old Liam Blackburn says, in awed reaction, as he reaches up to pet the big snake being held by a man at Victoria Park.

Moments later, the seven-foot Central American red-tail boa constrictor is crawling up Liam's arm and across the back of his neck before slowly slithering head first, down the other side of his body.

"Awesome," the Bible Hill youngster says of the experience. "That he was going around my neck."

Liam and his mom are not the only ones who have decided to come over and check out the snake that spends a good part of his time wrapped around owner Kenny Oliver's neck.

Oliver, 21, of Truro has been garnering a bit of attention lately as he walks around town with his pet, Titus, wrapped snugly in place.

In fact, the reaction by some members of the public to the sight of Oliver and Titus in the downtown area was the subject of some debate during Truro town council on Monday.

"I've had a few calls about it," Coun. Tom Chisholm said, during the meeting. "Inglis Street businesses are not impressed."

The bottom line, however, council determined, is that the snake is a pet and the town does not have any bylaw in place to prevent it from being out and about with its owner.

From Oliver's perspective, that's exactly the way it should be.

"I have no problems with people taking their pets outside," he says, adding that he has faced more danger from unleashed dogs running public than Titus has ever created.

"I've never had anyone who could say that this snake has done any harm to them or anything like that."

Oliver, who was once "deathly afraid" of snakes, has been handling the creatures for about four years after doing some research and deciding to deal with his phobia once and for all.

"Got my first one out of fear and now I just love them," he said. "So I'd take snakes all day."

Oliver does admit, though, that some people do run away when they see him coming. Just as many others, however, run up to check Titus out.

"A lot of people don't know about snakes, right. So they don't know if they like them until they pet one or hold it," he says.

"They're awesome to get to know. When you hang out with a snake and get to know their behaviour ... To be able to pick it up and watch it move around it's cage and eat, all that stuff. It's awesome."

But is it dangerous?

"No, maybe in the wild, Oliver said. "But not a pet, not one that was bred in captivity," he says. "They get used to being handled and they're fine."

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Red tail boa constrictor

Range: Tropical South and Central America, from Brazil and Columbia all the way north through Mexico.

Lifespan: Can live for more than 30 years in captivity.

Size: Fully grown adult red-tailed boa can easily reach 10 feet in length and 50 pounds in weight.

Behaviour: Generally docile, though wild-caught boas tend to be more aggressive than captive-bred boas.

Habitat: Prefer woodlands, semi-arid forests and tropical rain forests. Nocturnal and spend the hot days lazing about under logs or cooling off in rivers, and the cooler nights hunting prey.

Diet: Natural prey includes rats, mice, amphibians, snakes, birds, eggs and small mammals. Titus, who is fed twice a month, eats frozen rats and rabbits.