Dumped snakes a perennial problem, says vet

When David Dehghan saw that a red-tail boa constrictor was found in Coquitlam River Park this weekend, he wasn't surprised. In fact, Dehghan had spotted a plastic tub with three exotic snakes in it just a few weeks ago in the same park during his daily walk.

"I expect bears, or other bigger mammals. A tropical python is kind of strange," Dehghan said. 

Dehghan had spotted the tub during his daily routine of picking up trash along the trail. He thought the tub, hidden behind some logs, was just another piece of garbage. He called animal control to come pick up the snakes.

Eventually the animals made their way to the Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge, where two of the snakes were rehabilitated. One had already died in the tub. 

Dr. Adrian Walton, the head veterinarian at the hospital, says these kind of pet dumps are common at this time of year.

"It's one of those things, from about May to September, October, we get calls at least once a month because again, when everybody starts moving, they decide to get rid of pets," Walton said. 

Daphne Mercier

Walton said he is aware of three separate snake dumps this year, but it's possible that is only a small percentage of the animals that get dumped. 

He said COVID-19 might exacerbate the problem in the months to come as people rushed out to get new pets of all stripes at the start of the pandemic, and might now be facing changing circumstances like lost income or eviction — or even pet separation issues as they return to work.

"We expect we're going to see more of this problem. Not just snakes," he said. 

The snake that was found on Saturday, which Walton estimates is about a year old and harmless to humans, is currently recuperating at the hospital. He says it will likely get re-homed through assistance from the B.C. Reptile Club. 

"If you're the right person, [snakes] make wonderful pets," Walton said, adding this type of snake can live up to 20 years. "[But] these are a lifelong commitment. Don't get an animal like this if you cannot devote your life to this animal for its entire animal lifespan."

Mike Zimmer/CBC

As for Dehghan, he says he'll take a closer look during his daily walks. 

"I will still pick up garbage on the trail, but I'll look more carefully at what I'm picking up."