Two young brothers were found dead at a sleepover after a python reportedly escaped from the pet store below them, slithered through ventilation shafts and dropped though the ceiling.
Autopsies on the brothers, 5-year-old Noah Barthe and 7-year-old Connor Barthe, will be performed Tuesday in New Brunswick, Canada.
The pet store owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, told the Global News television station that he didn’t hear a sound and discovered the “horrific scene” when he went into his living room, where the two boys had been sleeping, on Monday morning.
“I can’t believe this is real,” Savoie said.
The boys were the children of his best friend and were often at his Campbellton apartment to visit his son, Savoie said. The python, which he has had for at least 10 years, had been kept alone in its enclosure and was not handled by anyone else, he added.
The snake is about 4.7 yards long, RCMP Sgt. Alain Tremblay said. He said police were looking at whether the store followed the province’s regulations on exotic animals.
“It’s a criminal investigation,” Tremblay said. “We’re going to look at all avenues.”
Snake expert John Kendrick, a manager at the Reptile Store in Hamilton, Ontario, said it sounds like the python was not enclosed properly and might have been spooked. He called the strangling deaths “very unusual,” but said African rock pythons tend to be a little more high-strung.
Pythons are among the largest snakes on Earth and can reach more than 26 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds. They are carnivores and can quickly knock a person out with a squeeze around the head or neck, cutting off air and blood flow — which is why experts say they should not be kept as pets.
Here are some things you might not know about the giant snakes:
• Pythons have terrible eyesight — they locate prey with chemical receptors in their tongues and heat receptors along their jaw.
• They can stay under water for up to 30 minutes before coming up for air.
• Pythons can live in captivity up to 40 years.
Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons are believed to be living in the Florida Everglades. Some owners are freeing the giant snakes when they grow too large. Others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. They have been reproducing ever since and appear to be wiping out large numbers of raccoons, opossums and bobcats.
Laws on keeping a snake as a pet vary depending on where you live. In response to the tragedy that left the two boys dead, the city of Montreal is considering stiffening its laws on exotic snakes. As of now, people can own non-venomous snakes under three meters long.
Courtesy of USA Today