Park rangers at Congaree National Park warn visitors that a boa constrictor may be slithering through the park.
The Facebook page for the park southeast of Columbia noted it received reports Sunday night that a visitor had released the snake along a park boardwalk. “This visitor was under the impression that we already had them here and established, and it would be okay to release it into the wild,” the post noted. “It is NEVER appropriate or legal to release native or exotic species within Congaree National Park.”
Boa constrictors are native to Central and South America, but are often sold as exotic pets in the United States. Unlike other large snakes, there is no ban against importing or transporting the snakes into the U.S. to be sold as pets. It is not considered a threat to humans (it kills its prey by strangling and suffocation rather than venom) and eats lizards, birds and small mammals. Since it has no natural predators, the species has gained a foothold in Florida due to escapes and illegal releases by disillusioned owners.
But even if a snake is native to the South Carolina Midlands, rangers do not allow it to be released inside their park’s borders. “Even native species that have been rehabilitated may have picked up diseases while in recovery that can decimate populations within a range, as well as doing great harm to other animals populations as well,” the Facebook post said. “Please help us to keep our park as natural as possible and DO NOT release animals within the park.”
The statement said the reported release location was along the park’s boardwalk near stop #3. Anyone who sees the boa is urged to report it to park staff immediately.