Cowen Park python unlikely to slither out of recent cold spell
A nearly 7-foot python that slithered away from its owner in North Seattle's Cowen Park this summer has mostly likely not survived Seattle's abrupt transition to dreary fall weather.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The nearly 7-foot python that slithered away from its owner in Cowen Park last summer most likely has not survived Seattle's abrupt transition to dreary fall weather.
With no reports of snake sightings in the past 2 ½ months, animal experts say it's doubtful the coldblooded reptile is still alive.
Scott Petersen, better known as "The Reptile Man" and owner of Monroe's Reptile Zoo, said the python may have contracted pneumonia, which is common when reptiles encounter cold conditions.
"They need to be kept in (temperatures in) the 80s or they get sick," Petersen said. "They'll get pneumonia. They're a tropical species; they can't tolerate these cold nights."
Petersen, who has been presenting reptiles to schoolchildren and organizations for more than 20 years, said he hunted for the Cowen Park python after it vanished this summer with no luck.
Jennifer Pramuk, the reptile and amphibian curator at Woodland Park Zoo, said even if the snake were still alive, it won't be for much longer.
"At this time of year now, it's getting down to 40 degrees at night. At these temperatures, he can't even digest food and he'll probably die," Pramuk said. "They can't naturalize in this part of the country."
Seattle police said the snake was reported missing by its owner, a homeless man, on the afternoon of Aug. 13. Officers advised park users and neighbors to keep animals on a leash and to stay on the trails and away from drainage ditches, thick foliage and hollow logs.
Seattle police are no longer searching for the snake. Spokesman Mark Jamieson said they haven't had any reports of sightings since the python was reported missing.
Pythons are not venomous. They kill by constriction, grasping prey with their teeth, coiling around it and squeezing until it suffocates. The natives of Southeast Asia are carnivores, surviving primarily on small mammals and birds.
Even if the python survived nighttime lows dipping into the 30s, Don Jordan, director of Seattle Animal Control, said it likely succumbed to "environmental hazards" — being hit by a car, getting into rat poison, being attacked by a cat, dog or coyote.
However, he does offer one possible scenario in which the python could survive the cold — though it may not bring much comfort to Cowen Park neighbors.
"The likelihood this would survive would be pretty remote. Unless it finds a nice warm spot in somebody's crawl space, it's highly unlikely," Jordan said. "The odds are really against it."
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.