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Anybody lose a python?

Authorities seek the owner of the runaway snake. If no one claims the pet, an adoptive family awaits.

By AMY HERDY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- He is somebody's baby. Seizing the opportunity of an unlocked door, he slipped free, only to be discovered on a neighbor's driveway.

As a small crowd gathered, he moved to the street, and they moved with him. Finally, someone called a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, and another neighbor readied a pillowcase.

"They just wanted him gone," said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter of the nearly 7-foot Burmese python found in Town 'N Country's Copperfield neighborhood late Thursday.

Yet with nary a scale out of place and a sociable air, it was clear to his new handlers that this was not simply a vagrant pest.

"Somebody treated him with a lot of love," said Christopher Nelson, 29, who retrieved the reptile from the Sheriff's Office substation and was keeping it Friday until its owner could be found.

At first, deputies called Nelson's father, Cpl. Bill Nelson, whose reputation for handling unwanted reptilian critters (think, large alligators) is known throughout the department.

Yet the elder Nelson was busy, so his son, who learned a thing or two from his dad over the years, responded.

"Growing up, anything that ran by, I was chasing it," Christopher Nelson said.

So for now, the snake, dubbed "Herbie," hangs out with Nelson, who headed to a rodent store Friday afternoon to pick him up a snack.

And if no one claims Herbie?

Christopher Nelson, after cajoling his wife, has decided to keep him.

"I'll build him a nice wooden enclosure. With padlocks," Nelson said, as the snake peered at his 17-month-old daughter, Eylissa.

-- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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