Having a snake for a pet is a serious matter

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jul 18, 2014 in Rat Answers | Subscribe


A snake like the Lake Hopatcong boa is no laughing matter to have as a pet, according to TJ Cheevers, owner of Nature’s Cove Pet Center in Newton.

“It’s not something that should be taken lightly,” Cheevers said. “The number one thing is common sense.”

Cheevers has been breeding large constrictors since he was 12 years old and has come to learn what is really required of a pet this large.

Aside from common sense, someone wishing to purchase a snake will most likely need a permit to legally own it. Nature’s Cove supplies customers with a temporary permit from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, and then it is up to the owner to renew it yearly, said Justin Grindle, a store associate.

A boa constrictor, which is what reports are saying is lurking in the waters of Lake Hopatcong, is actually a family of snakes rather than a specific species, Cheevers said. While reports say the Hopatcong boa is 15 to 16 feet, a red tail boa, the most common pet boa at Nature’s Cove, has a maximum length of 10 feet, Grindle said.

While boas can be quick in the water, they prefer land.

“They’re not going to be aquatic,” Cheevers said. “They might come down to the water for a drink or a short swim, but it’s hard for them to spend time in the water.”

Reticulated pythons, similar in markings to the red tail boa, can reach a maximum length of 32 feet, Grindle said, and are the longest snake in the world. Mongo, the store’s resident reticulated python, is 5 years old and 16 feet in length. Mongo eats a meal of four large rats once a month, Grindle said.

While the reticulated python can grow the longest, the immense girth of the green anaconda makes it the largest snake in the world, according to National Geographic, weighing up to 550 pounds with a diameter of 12 inches.

“They are cumbersome on land, but stealthy and sleek in the water,” National Geographic reports. Green and yellow anacondas, however, are not allowed to be possessed or sold in New Jersey.

If the snake in the lake is a house pet set free, Cheevers said there is a simple alternative to releasing it into the community.

“They can come straight to me,” Cheevers said. “I’ll find it a home.”

Grindle said the snake will most likely be spotted on rocks early in the morning.

“They have no internal body temperature regulation,” Grindle said, “so they need the sun to bask.”

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