Camp Lejeune is warning base personnel of a potential threat to human safety after staff captured two exotic snakes roaming the Marine base, which is dense with pine forests, underbrush and alligator-infested swamps.
One was found in the sleeping quarters for a group of Marines, officials said.
“The first was a ball python found in a barracks and the second was a red tailed boa in a parking lot,” said a June 28 post on the camp’s Facebook page. “Neither of these snakes are native to the United States and can pose various threats to the environment and human safety.”
Base officials did not say how long the nonvenomous snakes were. However, ball pythons grow to 5 feet in length and can live 30 years, while red-tailed boa constrictors can grow to 12 feet and are considered “voracious eaters,” according to Reptiles Magazine.
Both are constrictors, meaning they wrap around their prey and squeeze, according to National Geographic.
Officials suspect the exotic snakes may have been pets, something that is not permitted at the base in coastal North Carolina.
The alert comes at a time when fears are growing that the warming climate will enable the invasive snake species in south Florida, including former pet pythons and anacondas, to migrate farther north in the country.
Last month, officials in Morgantown, West Virginia, warned the town that a 15-foot python was on the loose, after someone saw it hanging from a tree near West Virginia University, The Charlotte Observer reported. It has not yet been captured.
The alert at Camp Lejeune prompted nearly 700 comments in recent days, some from pet owners assuring the public the snakes are harmless but many more from people worried about the impact such snakes have on the environment.
“Scary that they escaped,” posted Cyndy Robinson Taylor. “They’re dangerous to pets and people, especially children.”
“I’m not going to argue how ‘harmless’ they are to pets or people, but regardless, releasing an exotic species (of ANY KIND) into our native environment can cause a lot of damage and disruption to the balance of the native environment,” said Jess Weiss on Camp Lejeune’s Facebook page.
“I hope those responsible are caught, punished and if active duty get discharged. Those things can cause a danger to people and the eco system,” wrote Norman Arsenault.