Plumbers clear pipes with devices called snakes, but in Arlington last week, the plumbing contained the other kind of snake. It was an anaconda, an exotic slitherer more commonly associated with South America than with Northern Virginia.
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington said the snake was found about 4 p.m. Dec. 27 in a toilet in an apartment on South 31st Street.
The league described it as a yellow anaconda and said it was a juvenile, about four feet long. A full-grown member of the species can reach 13 feet and weigh more than 100 pounds.
It is not venomous, but it is a constrictor, putting a powerful squeeze on its prey. When fully grown and “not well-socialized,” the league said, the snakes “can be dangerous.”
In the wild, its preference is for watery areas such as swamps and marshes. The aquatic affinity at least suggests why it might have felt at home in a toilet.
But that did not explain how the snake got in the apartment.
Chelsea Lindsey, a spokeswoman for the league, said there were probably two possibilities. One, someone who lived in the apartment complex owned the snake as a pet but did not properly secure its cage, allowing it to escape. Or it was abandoned in the building, something she said animal control experts see on occasion.
Then it got hungry and went into the pipes looking for food, likely mice, she said. It probably got into the pipes through another sink or toilet, she said.
“He unfortunately came up in this poor person’s bathroom,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey would not release the name or exact address of the apartment complex where the snake was found because she said authorities were trying to find the owner and because the case is under investigation.
The snake was safely removed by an animal control officer using tongs and other special equipment. The welfare league said it found a specialist who will be able to provide the reptile with proper care.
Lindsey said it is “unusual” to find someone with an anaconda for a pet. Typically, ball pythons are the most common type of snake to keep as a household pet because they do not grow as large.
Although it is not illegal to keep an anaconda as a pet, she said, it is not recommended. Lindsey reminded those interested in a snake for a pet to not pick an anaconda.
“They get very large,” she said. And “the average person is not going to be able to handle a snake like this.”
In a Facebook post, the league expressed satisfaction with how things worked out, saying that nobody “likes being surprised by a lost and confused snake in their toilet!”