'Python' spotted along Savannah River turns out to be something else

Many residents thought this snake was a python, but experts say it's just a giant river snake. (WRDW-TV / May 31, 2012)
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Thursday, May 31, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A pretty big snake is causing some pretty big concerns along the Savannah River.

Folks have been taking pictures of a snake spotted along the banks that they think is a python. The snake is around 7 to 8 feet long with markings that strongly resemble those of a python.

"If I'd seen one that huge, I'd be freaking out," said common river-goer Aubri Midleton.

The snake even has some people used to dealing with these creatures a little disturbed.

"First thing I thought is, 'Oh dear God, where is that thing from?'" said Savannah Riverkeeper Tanya Bonitatibus.

The picture had a lot of people on the river, and even animal control, thinking that it was a python.

"I have never seen a snake that large or of that species in Columbia County or in the CSRA," said Daniel Mayne, the field operations director for Columbia County Animal Services.

But you can rest easy, because the snake isn't actually a python.

"It's not a cottonmouth, it's not a python. It's a giant brown water snake," Bonitatibus said.

Pythons tend to be a lot slimmer than the big snake slithering around the banks in the photo. But it isn't as far-fetched as you may think for people to be worried about pythons in the Savannah River.

"A lot of people have them as pets, and then they get giant and let them go," Bonitatibus said.

This all may remind you of Augusta's missing boa constrictor named Scar, who has been on the loose since early May.

But pythons don't do well in the wild here.

"The Savannah River Ecology Lab started a study about two years ago trying to look at were the pythons going to be able to survive up here? And I'm happy to say that so far, they haven't been able to survive the winters," Bonitatibus said.

Bonitatibus said that there could come a time when pythons may be able to survive this far North, but for right now, if you see a snake that you think is a python on the river, chances are it's probably a brown river snake. The experts say to just give it space.