Video shows moment wildlife specialist removes escaped python from police cruiser

Groton police officers found themselves scrambling after a ball python escaped custody in the back of a cruiser

City of Groton Police Department

A strange call to police in Connecticut on Tuesday night produced a brief moment of “hiss-teria” when officers found themselves making an interesting arrest: a four-foot snake.

The Groton Police Department took to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon to announce that a ball python had been found late Tuesday in Ledgewood Condominiums on Meridian Street.

“The snake … is currently in custody with Critter Cop,” the post said. “Please contact the police department to bond the snake out of critter jail.”

The “Critter Cop” in question is Jay Johnson, a nuisance wildlife removal specialist who said he was sleeping when he received a panicked phone call from Groton police around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

“They were freaking out,” Johnson said. “They said they had a snake in the back of the cruiser.”

The officers, Johnson said, had used a large plastic tub to take the snake into custody before placing it in the cruiser. But when the container’s lid came loose in the backseat, the officers encountered a new problem: an escapee.

“They didn’t want to touch it,” Johnson said. 

Johnson, who owns a 24-hour wildlife control firm fittingly called The Critter Cop, was on scene within the hour to take the python into custody.

The Salem resident said he receives calls about nuisance snakes “all the time.” But even he admitted this was a first for him.

Typically, Johnson explained, he’s called out to remove trapped pests that can be released back into the wild. But this snake, a ball python he estimated was about 2 years old, was the opposite: a “very docile” pet snake that either escaped or had been released.

For now, the rescued snake is safe at Johnson’s home. Soon, however, a local nonprofit will give the python another chance to be someone’s pet.

Amid the chaos on Tuesday evening, Groton police also reached out to Jarrod Ackles, who volunteers as a reptile rescuer, about the loose snake in an officer’s cruiser. 

The New London nonprofit he works with, A Shedding Chance Reptile Rescue, specializes in rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming abandoned reptiles.

“Reptiles are one of the most neglected animals in the pet industry,” said Amanda Coler, owner of A Shedding Chance. “When we hear about a reptile being in trouble, it’s pretty much life or death for that animal, and that’s why we respond urgently.”

But when Groton police messaged Ackles on Facebook, he was asleep.

“When I woke up and saw it, I was like, ‘Wait, what?’” said Ackles, a ball python owner himself. “I thought I was having a dream.”

By the time Ackles called the Groton Police Department on Wednesday morning, Johnson had already taken the python in. 

So, Ackles made a second phone call – this one to Johnson.

“I was like, ‘If you’re not going to keep him, and you don’t have a goal for where you want him to go, I will definitely take him in and find him a good home,” Ackles said.

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