Orient woman wakes up to burmese python in her living room

by |
08/02/2012 12:00 PM |

COURTESY PHOTO | The ball python was taken to the town animal shelter.

It’s a good thing Leslie Provatas wasn’t watching the thriller “Anaconda” when she fell asleep on the couch in her Orient cottage Sunday night.

Had that movie about a killer giant snake provided her last conscious memory, she might not have reacted so calmly when she awoke early Monday morning to find a ball python staring at her from the top of her television.

“I was sleeping on my couch, which I often do at night while watching old movies,” Ms. Provatas said. “I woke up about 5:30 Monday morning with the feeling that I was being watched. I looked across the room and there was this snake looking right at me. We had an eye-to-eye moment.”

The TV, which was still on, was close to her front door. Absent a screen, she had left the door open to catch a cooling breeze.

Ms. Provatas said she carefully got up, closed the door and called 911, “laughing the whole time.”

Within minutes a Southold police officer arrived, but by that time the snake was off the television. The four-foot reptile, with a girth of six to eight inches, “was going all over the place, trying to find a place to hide,” said Ms. Provatas.

When the officer asked her for a box, she emptied one containing books. The officer used a nightstick to lift the animal into the box, which was quickly closed and brought to the town’s animal shelter in Peconic.

Ms. Provatas, a writer who has lived in Orient for 13 years, speculates that the animal is a pet that either escaped or was abandoned.

“I really feel sorry that people are dumping them or they’re getting out,” she said. “It’s very cruel and dangerous. They suffer, poor things.”

ball pythons are native to southern and southeast Asia and not indigenous to Long Island. As constrictors, they kill their prey — mostly birds or small mammals ­— by coiling around it and squeezing it to death. In the wild, ball pythons often grow to 12-feet-long.

This is not the first time police have received such a call, said Chief Martin Flatley.

“We’re not sure where this one came from, but I bet someone in that neighborhood is looking for a snake,” he said.

He jokingly referred to receiving an early morning call about a python in Orient as “just another day at work.”

A number of years ago an employee of Burt’s Reliable fuel oil came across a bright yellow, eight-foot ball python slithering across the North Road in Southold. That also appeared to be an abandoned or escaped animal.

The Orient snake was covered in brownish patches. Ms. Provatas said she knew what it was because she has a friend on the South Fork who has pythons.

“It looks like it has the skin of a rattler, but I knew it wasn’t a rattler because I didn’t hear any noise,” Ms. Provatas said.

She’s not at all surprised that the snake chose to take up residence at her King Street address and suspects it might have been with her for up to 10 days.

“Two weeks ago it was so hot I left the front and back doors open to get a cross breeze,” she said.

Looking back, she now recognizes signs that the snake may have seized the opportunity to retreat to a place out of the sun.

“I was working on my computer when my cat, Percy, who is 18 and very brave, came running into my office like a bat out of hell with her eyes wide open as if saying, ‘What the hell was that?’ ” Ms. Provatas recalled. “That happened about two or four times a week. I think he was trying to eat my cat, which made her freak out and run across the room to me.”

She speculates that as cooler weather approached the snake found warmth on her older non-flat-screen television.

“Had I not had the TV on, I would have been the warm and cozy thing,” Ms. Provatas said. “I would have ended up in bed with him.”

tkelly@timesreview.com