Snake Kills Two Brothers in Peculiar Attack

Tragic deaths bring forth debates over exotic pet regulations.

By: Jordan Smith

Two brothers were found dead in a Campbellton, New Brunswick apartment early Monday morning, believed to be killed by an escaped python.

Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh of the RCMP said Noah and Connor Barthe, aged 5 and 7, were at the apartment above Reptile Ocean Inc. for a sleepover.

They were found dead shortly after 6:30 a.m. and appeared to have been strangled by the 15-foot African rock python.

Contrary to initial reports stating that the snake escaped from the pet store, the reptile was kept in a glass enclosure in the apartment, in a room separate from the boys.

An autopsy on the brothers was conducted on Tuesday and preliminary result confirmed their death by asphyxiation, but further findings have yet to be released.

A necropsy on the euthanized animal has also been conducted, but so far only indicates that the snake was in good health at the time of the attack.

Keeping the animal in question as a pet is banned by New Brunswick law, however permits can be granted for accredited zoos.

These snakes are ambush hunters and will sit silently for extended periods of time waiting for prey to cross their path as opposed to actively seeking prey as this snake appears to have done.

CTV originally reported that a renowned snake expert says the New Brunswick case may be the first time a snake has killed two people at once.

Yet another oddity in this case is the fact that the snake did not consume the two boys after incapacitating them.

“When they grab and asphyxiate an animal by squeezing it as hard as they can, that’s not a self-defense action, that’s a feeding response,” [Paul] Goulet said in a telephone interview. “For self-defense, a snake will bite and let go, bite and let go, bite and let go – and I mean bite and immediately let go.”

This incident has also brought to the fore the lack of provincial and federal regulations on exotic pets.

As it currently stands there is a patchwork of bylaws and regulations across Canada regarding these types of animals as it is a matter of local governance.

Given the young age of the boys and preventability of this tragedy many people are crying foul for allowing exotic pets to be imported at all.

The term exotic pet encompasses more animals than just reptiles and there is not yet a clear distinction between dangerous and non-dangerous exotic animal and which ones should be kept by responsible owners.



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