Members of the Sannella family thought they were finally reunited with Monty,Â anÂ 11-month-oldÂ ball pythonÂ supposedly found in aÂ sewer grate in the city’s east end on TuesdayÂ after itÂ went missing in June.
But once they returned home from picking the snake up at animal services, they discovered a slippery truth.
It wasn’t Monty, but a different ball python.
“So now we have the impostor snake at the houseÂ â€”Â that we’ve nicknamed Sneaky PeteÂ â€”Â and I’m not sure what to do with him,” saidÂ Samantha Sannella, whose 18-year-oldÂ son purchasedÂ Monty last November.
“AndÂ we’re so sad that Monty’s missing in action.”
Monty has been missing since the night theÂ Toronto Raptors won their firstÂ NBA championship on June 13,Â Sannella said.
The family celebrated on Tuesday, when a snake was spotted nearÂ aÂ gas stationÂ about three kilometres from their home.
TheÂ snake seemed happy to be home, butÂ Sannella’s son noticed some unusual behaviour.
It lifted up a hollow log in the aquarium â€” something he had never seen Monty do before.Â
So he examined some old photos of MontyÂ and quickly realizedÂ the unique patterns on the head of the snake in itsÂ terrarium didn’t match those on Monty.Â
The jig was up for Sneaky Pete.
SannellaÂ said she wasÂ “a little bit scared last night” because Sneaky PeteÂ seems “quite a bit stronger” than Monty.
She put books on top of his terrariumÂ overnight to keep the snakeÂ from slithering out in the night.Â
“The last thing I want is two missing snakes in my house,” she said.
“TheÂ other thought was, ‘What if this is a female snakeÂ and Monty comes back, and all of the sudden I’m a snake breeder?'”Â
This means someone else must beÂ missing their pet python too,Â SannellaÂ said.
She was hopefulÂ after seeing a man post about his missing python on Facebook. But they emailed andÂ realized his snake’s skin patterns didn’t match either.
“How many pythons are loose in the sewers of Toronto?” SannellaÂ mused. “There’s a lot, obviously.”
In the meantime, the family gave Sneaky Pete a bath and the snake seems “extremely happy” in itsÂ new, nicely heated new home.
But Sannella isn’tÂ quite sure what to do.
She created a Facebook page called Missing Pythons of TorontoÂ in hopes of finding the impostor’s true owner.
Sannella still hopes they’ll get Monty back.Â
“Maybe he’s in the basement laughing at us,” she said.
Monty escaped when Sannella’s sonÂ had friends over to watch the NBA Finals.
DuringÂ the party, SannellaÂ suspects,Â the lid of Monty’s container was accidentally left openÂ and the snakeÂ slipped into a nearby sewer grate, but she said “there’s no way of knowing” exactly what happened.
Sannella said the ordeal has madeÂ her reconsider keeping a snake in the house.
“I didn’t actually ever want a snake, but my son really wanted a spider and I said no,” she said. He suggested a snake â€”Â and SannellaÂ said sure,Â “but if it ever escapes, you’ll be in big trouble.”
Ball pythons typically grow to be about 1.2 metres in lengthÂ and are non-venomous constrictors.Â
They can go without food for several months, according to ball python enthusiastÂ websites.
According to the city, Toronto Animal Services has picked up 28 stray snakes since Jan. 1, 2017. Another five have been surrendered by their owners.
Fiona Venedam, manager of enforcement and mobile response for Toronto Animal Services, says snakes are excellent escape artists.
Any terrarium should have a secure lid with a latch. Proper lighting, heating, bedding and hiding places are needed to makeÂ pet snakes feel at home, she added.