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Trouble for the Tidy Bowl man

A man lassos the python lurking in his toilet. He tugs, and tugs, and tugs . . .

Published February 24, 2005

[Photo: Shannon Scavotto]
With tissue paper on its head, a 6-foot African rock python is shown in Shannon Scavotto's toilet in St. Petersburg. Scavotto rigged a noose to pull the snake out.

ST. PETERSBURG - It was almost 9 a.m. Tuesday and Shannon Scavotto already was running late for work when he opened the toilet to throw out a tissue.

Inside was a snake as thick as a child's wrist, its diamond-shaped head sticking 10 inches out of the toilet.

Scavotto, 30, grabbed his camera phone to call someone, then snapped a few shots of the snake with the tissue paper on its head.

He called the maintenance department for his building on 4th Avenue S, and they said someone would be right over. He called animal control, but its snake expert was on vacation. He called a snake rescue, but they wanted $150.

So Scavotto took matters into his own hands.

He fashioned a noose out of some PVC pipe and string and grabbed a dark green pillowcase. By now the snake had receded back into the bowels of the toilet. As Scavotto's wife, Beth, and 3-year-old, Ashlynd, looked on, the snake poked its head out again. Scavotto got the noose around its neck and pulled the string taut.

Then started pulling. And pulling. And pulling. And the snake kept coming.

"Get its tail into the pillowcase," he yelled to his wife.

"Where's the tail?" she asked.

Scavotto realized he had about 5 feet of snake and it was still coming.

"It was one of those five levels of realization," he said. "How big is this snake?"

At about 6 feet, the snake's tail appeared and Beth got it into the pillowcase. Then they put the iridescent gray, silver and black snake into a barrel offered by the maintenance worker.

Jimmy Shirkey, who said he does maintenance for hundreds of apartments, had never seen a snake pulled from a toilet.

"I've snaked out a toilet, but I've never pulled a snake from a toilet," he said. "Makes me wonder now when I go to the restroom."

Scavotto called his boss to tell him he'd be late because he'd had to wrestle a snake out of his toilet. His boss joked he would need a better excuse than that.

Scavotto told him he'd bring it in so he could see it.

And he did. His wife wouldn't let him keep it at the house, anyway.

One of Scavotto's co-workers called a friend who raises snakes. The friend said the snake might die from its ordeal but she would come and get it and try to rehabilitate it.

Scavotto learned he had pulled an African rock python from the toilet.

Among the largest snakes, it has been documented at 28 feet but averages 20 to 22 feet, according to snake expert and trapper Tom Holmes of Bradenton, who used to be the curator of snakes at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. The bigger African rock pythons can weigh 250 pounds.

He said the 6-foot python is likely a baby, maybe 6 months to a year, unless it hasn't been fed enough, then it might be simply malnourished.

Pythons' strength helps them escape confinement, he said. Once outside, they look for the first exit, which in this case may have been a drain into the sewer system.

"Snakes coming up through the sewer into the toilet: It doesn't happen frequently," Holmes said.

The city's public utilities department could not be reached to comment on the regularity of such an event.

But it has happened elsewhere.

In Fort Worth, Texas, a 6-foot black water snake came out of a toilet before animal control workers arrived and moved it to a nearby lake.

Last year, a python turned up in the toilet bowl of a home in Barcelona, Spain, and an iguana climbed up the sewer pipes of a home in Sarasota and got stuck in the toilet bowel.

And in 1993 in Atlanta, a woman sat down on the toilet only to be scratched by a squirrel that had somehow arrived from the sewer.

On Wednesday, Scavotto worried about the effects of the snake incident on his 3-year-old daughter, Ashlynd, but his fears were unfounded.

"I figured she'd be horrified of the toilet for months but she thinks it's funny," he said. "Today she was saying she's a snake hunter."

The Scavottos want the snake returned to its rightful owner. They are placing an ad in the St. Petersburg Times for anyone who may have lost the 6-foot-long snake.

Meanwhile, the snake has apparently recovered from its ordeal. On Tuesday night, it ate a mouse.

Times researcher Caryn Baird and Times wires contributed to this story.

[Last modified February 24, 2005, 00:54:17]

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