Thursday, 12 April 2018

Exotic milk snake found at McDonald's drive-through in Australia sparks fears of illegal trade – via Herp Digest

Snake handlers Emma Carlston and Luke Dunn with the exotic milk snake they captured from McDonald's Braddon.

When Luke Dunn stopped by the McDonald's drive-through in Braddon on Thursday night, he was only after one thing - a milk snake.

The Canberra snake catcher had been called out by a staff member who spotted the bright red, black and yellow reptile (that's milk snake not milkshake) lurking under the franchise's bins.

Milk snakes are native to the Americas and illegal in Australia, but a common pet in the US. They are also alarmingly similar in colour to the venomous coral snake so Dunn wasn't taking any chances.


There are many different sub-species of milk snake, but Emma and Luke think this one is a Pueblan milksnake, native to Mexico.

"It was dark, I didn't know what I was dealing with, I just threw it in the bag and got it home," he said.

While the exotic snake turned out to be the safer kind of reptile, it still spent the Easter long weekend under careful quarantine with the Dunn family.
Authorities granted Dunn and his partner Emma Carlson, who also runs Canberra Snake Rescue & Relocation, special permission to hold the animal until it could be handed over on Tuesday.

"We're not sure whether or not it escaped from an apartment in the city or if this was an illegal reptile trade in the Maccas carpark gone wrong," Carlson said.

ACT Parks and Conservation director Daniel Iglesias said the territory was concerned about any exotic reptiles found in Canberra as "they have the potential to adversely impact local ecosystems".

"A decision on the fate of the animal will be made on the advice of the government veterinary officers, who will consider animal welfare and biosecurity issues," Inglesias said.

The snake was reported to the Commonwealth and it is understood the animal will be put down.

"All exotic reptiles found or surrendered in the ACT are investigated, although there is often little or no information to go on," Inglesias said.
Just a month earlier, Alex Borg, who runs Canberra Snake Catcher service, removed another exotic reptile, this time an albino corn snake, from outside a house in Calwell.

Neither snake was fully grown, sparking fears that illegal breeding might be more rampant in the ACT than previously believed.

"It clearly wasn't imported in, someone must be breeding them here," Borg said.

"It's too cold in Canberra for them to survive without people."
The corn snake was seized by authorities and euthanised, Iglesias confirmed on Tuesday.

When Borg posted a photo of the reptile to Facebook, he said he was "overwhelmed" by the amount of people who came forward claiming it was their snake.

Carlson agreed it was a "very worrying" trend.

"We'd never come across an exotic snake before, the other ACT handlers hadn't either, and now we've had two turn up in the space of a month," she said.

"There's potentially a bigger illegal trade than we realised in Canberra."

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