Marines Are Reporting 'Huge, Strange-Looking' Snakes at Camp Lejeune

FILE PHOTO -- A ball python under a vehicle at the 416th Flight Test Squadron parking lot. (Courtesy photo)
FILE PHOTO -- A ball python under a vehicle at the 416th Flight Test Squadron parking lot. (Courtesy photo)

A year after Marines were told to quit feeding an alligator that lived near their barracks, reports of "huge" snakes at a North Carolina base have prompted officials to reiterate their warnings against pets, scaly or otherwise.

A red-tailed boa, a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet, was spotted in a parking lot at Camp Lejeune last month. The sighting followed another report of a 2-foot-long ball python slithering in the lobby of the barracks in the Wallace Creek.

"Since we have had two fairly recent incidents, we felt it was important to educate base personnel and the public on the issues that can be caused when exotic species are either intentionally or unintentionally released into the natural environment," Emily Gaydos, a wildlife biologist with Camp Lejeune's land and wildlife resources section said.

The Marine Corps doesn't track the number of exotic snakes or other animals found on base, Gaydos said. But the pair of reports prompted officials to remind Marines that snakes are not among the domestic animals they're allowed to have in base housing.

"Domestic animals do not include wild, exotic animals such as venomous, constrictor-type snakes or other reptiles, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, iguanas, or other 'domesticated' wild animals," a release put out last week states. "No privately-owned animals are allowed in work areas, barracks, or bachelor officer or enlisted quarters."

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There were no reports of snake bites or other injuries after the reptiles were found in the barracks and parking lot, Gaydos said. Neither are poisonous. The snakes were both transferred to local rehabilitation facilities that are "permitted and have the expertise to properly care for the specific species," she added.

Since neither snake is native to the Camp Lejeune region, officials there warned Marines of the unintended consequences of introducing them into the environment.

"An exotic species may prey on native species, have no predators, outcompete native species for food or other resources, introduce diseases, or interrupt a native species' life cycle in some way," the release warns.

In Florida, the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there is trying to fight the spread of iguanas, which are thriving in the warmer temperatures there. The Washington Post reported this week that homeowners there are being told to "kill the green iguanas on their own property whenever possible," as the lizard population booms without any natural predators.

This isn't the first time North Carolina Marines have been warned about messing up the local ecosystem.

Last year, a nearly 6-foot-long alligator had to be moved after wildlife experts discovered the reptile living near the barracks at Marine Corps Air Station New River was being fed by humans.

Marines tempted to feed the local creatures were given clear guidance: Don't even think about it.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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