Ben Trexel III, the Rogersville, Mo., man who owns a Burmese python, always thought an escape would be impossible.
His python’s cage is made of plexiglass more than 3 inches thick. The door is double-plated and locked by padlocks. A deadbolt on the door leading to the snake’s room was used as a precaution, should it ever somehow escape the cage.
Still, the snake, named SS Wraps for the shape of its stripes and its enormous length, got out and is still on the loose somewhere in southwest Missouri.
Here’s how the approximately 20-foot long snake escaped: The cage is not completely enclosed by plexiglass. Instead, part of the enclosure is bordered by the roof of Trexel’s home south of Springfield. Last week, a tree fell in just the wrong spot, crashing through his roof.
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“It collapsed part of (the cage),” Trexel said. “I found a small hole.” He desperately searched through the cage and among the insulation within the collapsed wall, but “I couldn’t find him.”
That was Thursday, and SS Wraps has still not returned to Trexel’s home on Cypress Road between Hunter and County Line.
Typically docile and recently fed, the snake shouldn’t pose a threat to humans, Trexel said, at least for now. “I’m not saying that after a couple months of him not eating that he’s not going to try to bite and eat something. That’s why I warned everybody. … He is a reptile — nobody knows what reptiles think.”
Tuesday night, a firefighter with the Ozark Fire Protection District used thermal imaging equipment to search for snake, with no luck.
Chief Darren White said there is a degree of concern for him and the department.
“Are we shaking in our boots? No, by no means are we to that point,” White said. But “it’s a concern for pets, smaller children and even adults if they’re not paying attention.”
SS Wraps will likely be looking for a source of heat, Trexel said, such as a hot water line, a water tank or a furnace duct.
Trexel has set up heat lamps in his yard, hoping to lure the snake back home. He’s also set up traps with chickens as bait.
One positive: the snake has an issue with its jaw and can’t open its mouth very wide. “I have to help him open up (when eating),” Trexel said. “I grab him behind the neck and stuff the head (of an animal) in first.”
Trexel typically feeds it rabbits or chickens, but anything with broad shoulders would be difficult for the snake to swallow.
Pythons, however, have been known to eat humans. USA Today reported pythons can kill a human in minutes and swallow them in about an hour.
Trexel said he’s been criticized for not registering the python with the county and not implanting a tracking chip.
He’s also been called irresponsible, but he stands by his decision to notify the public of his escaped python.
“I want to be responsible,” he said. “At this point though — how big this thing blew up makes me feel like I shouldn’t. But I know I’m doing the right thing.”
If you see SS Wraps, call Trexel at 417-983-4430 or the Ozarks Fire Protection District at 417-581-4436.