“Oh my God!” exclaimed Latonda Harvey, a neighbor who live-streamed the scene Thursday on Facebook. “It’s moving and it’s huge!”
The scare-turned-spectacle had residents and police in awe of the reticulated python, a nonvenomous species native to South and Southeast Asia that is the longest snake in the world.
“She’s about 18 feet long, 18-plus feet, so I can understand people worried about seeing a big snake sitting on top of a garage like that,” Devin Jones-White, her 25-year-old owner, later told WXYZ.
While it’s unclear how the docile Juliet found her way up to the shingles atop the home in Detroit’s East Seven Mile neighborhood, Jones-White had a theory. As first reported by WXYZ, Jones-White said he did not lock up her cage properly. And he suspected Juliet slithered out toward the front of the home on Thursday afternoon, where one of his dogs probably barked at her. Startled, Juliet made her way to safety — and a part of the home she where hadn’t been before.
“That’s what snakes do in the wild. They try to get somewhere safe,” he said. “[If] they don’t want to eat it, they’re trying to get away from it.”
Soon, word got around that a giant snake was on a neighbor’s roof, drawing a curious crowd who had to see it to believe it.
“Everyone kept coming here, driving by, taking pictures, getting out of their cars and video recording,” neighbor Kashires McReynolds said to FOX 2.
Once police arrived, one neighbor wondered aloud what authorities could do to address the unorthodox situation.
“What the flashlight gonna do?” Harvey asked during her live-stream, laughing. “Oh, that’s his walkie-talkie. He’s like, ‘Hell no!’”
But Juliet’s newfound attention got to the python, Jones-White said. She probably wanted to get as far out of reach as she could in that moment. The anxiety only worsened with the growing neighborhood commotion, he guessed.
“When everybody came out and crowded around her, she was spooked even more with the crowd,” Jones-White told FOX 2. “That’s why she never came down and stayed up there, doing her own thing.”
Once Jones-White was alerted, he said he was scared for Juliet. He asked a friend on the scene to make sure police didn’t do anything to the snake. When he arrived, he made his way to the roof to retrieve his 18-foot-long pet. Adults, children and cops alike gawked at the prospect of a human coming so close to a creature of cartoonish length.
“Is he really about to go up there?” Harvey wondered.
He did. Slowly but surely, Jones-White began the clunky process of carrying Juliet down the side of the roof. One onlooker could be heard yelling excited obscenities as the rescue unfolded. As he led Juliet down, Jones-White tripped and nearly fell off the roof, perhaps the most drama-filled moment of a situation involving an 18-foot-long snake in residential Detroit. Foot by foot, Jones-White patiently waited as Juliet wrapped around his torso until the 8-year-old made it safely to the ground.
Jones-White said he took in Juliet about five years ago from an older couple who had raised her for her first three years. For food, she eats thawed-out rabbits, he said. Since Juliet is nonvenomous, Jones-White told Fox 2 he has a special permit to own the python.
“She’s been around people her entire life,” Jones-White said to WXYZ. “She was born in captivity, raised in captivity. She doesn’t really know anything about the wild.”
So why would someone have an 18-foot-long snake native to Asia in a Detroit home? Jones-White is hoping to start a small zoo in the city, something that doesn’t exist in Detroit’s city limits, WXYZ reported. The Detroit Zoo, which hosts more than 1.5 million visitors annually, is actually located in Royal Oak, Mich., about three miles north of the Motor City.
No one was in danger Thursday, which is par for the course for the species. As The Washington Post’s Amy B Wang and Avi Selk have reported in recent years, the chance of a reticulated python attacking a human is, to put it lightly, rare. Emily Taylor, a professor of biological sciences at California Polytechnic State University, once wrote that the odds of a human getting eaten by a snake like the reticulated python are “lower than the chances of being struck by lightning at the exact same time as winning Mega Millions.”
Even with that you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me scenario, there have been at least two recent instances in which people were eaten by a reticulated python. In 2017, a 25-year-old Indonesian man who was missing was gruesomely discovered when villagers cut open a 23-foot-long reticulated python to find the man’s legs, Wang reported. Last year, another Indonesian villager, a 54-year-old woman, was devoured by another 23-foot-long reticulated python so bloated that it could barely move, Selk wrote.
Despite Juliet’s impressive length, she does not come close to being the longest python of her kind. That honor goes to Medusa, who, at 25 feet, 2 inches, is the longest snake ever recorded in captivity, according to Guinness World Records. In 2011, the 350-pound reticulated python needed 15 men to hold her to be measured at full length. Based out of Kansas City, Mo., Medusa shares Juliet’s taste for rabbits but also devours hogs and deer, according to her owner, Full Moon Productions.
Inevitably, the excitement near East Seven Mile gave way to exhaustion. And the only one to blame was Juliet, the reticulated python on the roof.
“I’m gonna need a drink after this one,” Harvey said.
Correction: A previous version of this article said the Detroit Zoo is about 13 miles northwest of Detroit. It is approximately three miles north of the city.
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