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Boa constrictor captured at Lock and Dam 13

Seven-foot-long boa captured at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Photo courtesy of USACE.

Seven-foot-long boa captured at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Photo courtesy of USACE.

By Ed Britton
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

Imagine that you are sitting along the Mississippi River shoreline in Fulton, Illinois with fishing pole in hand, drowning a few worms and enjoying a sunny day. Suddenly, you see something move out of the corner of your eye. That something turns out to be a seven-foot-long boa constrictor that is lazily sunning itself on the rocks next to you and probably wondering if you are ever going to catch a fish.

Logan Foster of Fulton Illinois was travelling along the road to his favorite fishing hole at Lock and Dam 13 on July 23 when he observed a large snake laying along the road. Foster took a picture of the snake that was identified as a boa constrictor. Many native species of snakes are present in our Mississippi River area but boa constrictors are not one of them.

In late September, we became aware of rumors that a boa was present in the Potter’s Marsh area of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Refuge staff advised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff at Lock and Dam 13 to be on the lookout for the boa.

Mark Nettles, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee, was on his way to work on the morning of October 3, when he spotted the boa laying alongside the road near Lock and Dam 13. Nettles is a snake buff and happily rescued the snake, which could barely move due to the cold temperatures. He loaded the large boa into the bed of his truck and notified
the refuge.

Several calls were made by the refuge to find someone who would accept this large boa constrictor. Don Decker, a snake savior and educator from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gratefully adopted the docile boa and took it home to join the rest of his snake family

Refuge staff encourage snake lovers who no longer want their pets, to reach out and find someone to adopt the pet rather than releasing it into the wild. Many people are terrified of snakes and coming upon a large boa may cause them to hurt themselves by tripping or falling trying to escape from what they perceive as a dangerous situation.

There are many types of exotic pets being commercially sold that aren’t native to our area. Some of these end up being released into the wild, perhaps in this case. Boas and other mild temperate animals will not survive our harsh winters and would die a slow painful death. Refuge staff encourage the public to report unusual sightings of wildlife, especially exotic wildlife, for the health of the pet, humans and the environment.

It’s important for potential snake owners to check state and federal laws in regard to the legality of the purchase of these snakes in their area. Some may be considered injurious and may be prohibited, others may be considered protected or dangerous and commercialization may also be prohibited by federal or state law.

Last updated: October 10, 2018