A 7-foot-long Burmese python found injured and abandoned near York Haven could not be saved, and now investigators are trying to determine who's responsible.
People spotted the snake on Monday in a pull-off area near Brunner Island. Eventually someone there called Amanda Sweeney, according to Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA.
"She and her friend were able to safely remove the snake from the side of the road," Smith said. "It appears to have had two stab wounds and was shot with a pellet gun."
Sweeney, 29, of East Manchester Township, said an acquaintance called her because he knows she regularly helps animals.
Sweeney's boyfriend, 28-year-old Zach Hoerner of East Manchester Township, and another man got the snake in a dog cage, she said, and it was taken to East York Veterinary Center.
But it couldn't be saved.
Fatal wound: "There was definitely a stab wound to the neck, and it managed to pierce the snake's trachea and esophagus," Sweeney said. "The snake was basically drowning in its own blood. We could hear it gurgling."
A veterinarian said the cut marks appear to have been made by someone trying to cut off part of the python's diamond patterning, according to Sweeney.
"It was extremely underweight ... about 21 pounds, and it hadn't shed in some time," she said, meaning it was either too cold to shed its skin or wasn't being fed enough to grow.
"It was not an aggressive snake," she said. "It did not hiss or rear at us. It did not coil or try to bite."
Neglect 'not an option': Sweeney said the python's fate breaks her heart, because a good home could have been found for it through local shelters or animal sanctuaries.
"There are too many resources at our fingertips to allow something like this to occur," she said. "Neglect is not an option."
Sweeney, who ended up paying the $201.85 vet bill, urged anyone with information about the python to come forward.
"It's the right thing to do," she said.
Smith said the SPCA has not yet determined whether the person or people who abandoned the snake are also responsible for injuring it.
If investigators can identify the former owner, he or she will be charged with animal cruelty for abandoning the snake, Smith said. And whoever injured the python is also facing an animal-cruelty charge, she said.
A posting on Craigslist in which the purported owner of the snake apologized and offered to pay the veterinary bills appears to be a hoax.
The woman whose name and phone number was listed in the posting said she doesn't live in York County and has never owned snakes.
Burmese facts: Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia and are some of the largest snakes on Earth, reaching lengths of 23 feet, according to National Geographic. They can weigh up to 200 pounds and have the girth of a telephone pole.
They are a popular pet, but their rapid growth rate often ends with them being poorly cared for and released into the wild, according to National Geographic.
Burmese pythons are an invasive species in Florida and took hold there about a decade ago. Some were released by owners, but scientists believe much larger numbers escaped from import holding facilities during hurricanes.
The pythons are breeding in the Everglades and greater Miami area, and groups including the Nature Conservancy are working to keep them from spreading to the Florida Keys.
Impact? Studies suggest the pythons are eating their way through the Everglades. Their prey includes raccoons, rabbits, bobcats, deer, foxes and small alligators, according to National Geographic; the giant snakes also compete with alligators for food.
Anyone with information about who abandoned and injured a Burmese python found near York Haven is asked to call SPCA Humane Police Officer Nicole Boyer at 764-6109, ext. 127.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at email@example.com, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.