Boa Constrictors slither freely in Maine

Imagine finding a 5-foot boa constrictor on your porch. That’s what happened to a Biddeford resident last week.

You might be surprised to know that anyone can possess a boa constrictor without a permit, nor do they have to let their neighbors or anyone else know when their snake escapes.

I tried to change that with a bill sponsored at my request by Senator Scott Cyrway, but DIF&W opposed the bill and it was reduced to a simple hike in fines for those who don’t get permits for exotic animals that require a permit or who fail to notify the Maine Warden Service if that animal gets loose.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of exotic animals that can be possessed without permits. And the owners of those animals don’t have to let anyone know when their animals get loose.

DIF&W maintains four lists for exotic animals:  Unrestricted Species, Prohibited Species, and two categories of Restricted species. One Restricted list limits the species to very specific reasons including some public benefit. I was surprised to learn that there are only 5 or 6 animals on the prohibited list, and more than 3000 on the unrestricted list, including lots of snakes.  The agency has issued about 150 permits for restricted species.

Our legislation would have required a permit to possess all exotic animals in Maine, and require the owners of exotics to notify the Maine Warden Service if their exotic animal gets loose along with any neighbors within that animal’s range of travel.

How would you like to have been the couple in Veazie who woke up to a shocking surprise slithering around in their shower: a 3-foot-long ball python? The python’s owner acknowledged that the python escaped its tank a month earlier.

Or how about the 3 ½ foot python that showed up in a Fairfield apartment, trying to eat the residents’ pet parakeets. Fairfield police arrived and confiscated the snake, which was given to the Maine Warden Service, which either took it to an animal rehab facility or, more likely, killed it.

Ad this isn’t just about snakes. In 2012 a Eurasian wild boar was shot by a hunter in Somerset County, after it killed a domestic pig. Ten fallow deer were rounded up in Nobleboro one year. And a 2-foot long lizard was captured by Camden police in 2013.

After the Biddeford boa constrictor was captured by the city’s animal control officer and transported to the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, the owner picked it up. According to the news report, red-tailed boa constrictors are frequently kept and bred in Maine, and grow to 6 to 10 feet long. Yikes!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.