News Stories

South Dakota Nessie...or Big Snake?

Despite recent sightings of a giant, elusive reptile living in a creek in South Dakota, a search has so far turned up nothing. Between July 24 and July 26 this summer, Shirley Nikodym and Chris Heinz were walking along Moccasin Creek when they saw what appeared to be a large snake poke its head out of the water. The snake ducked back under and began swimming toward the shore, causing them to run away.

Animal control officer John Weaver searched the area but saw no sign of the snake. The huge ball python that Nikodym and Heinz described to him is a tropical snake that needs hot weather. Weaver says it couldn?t survive a South Dakota winter, and probably won?t live through September.

Then Nikodym and Heinz found a snake that looks just like the one they saw in the creek at a pet store on Main Street?a 19-foot 280-pound Burmese python. ?They weren?t found in Moccasin Creek,? says store employee Elizabeth Mount about the store?s two big snakes. Store owner Terri Hagman says there?s no way the 19-foot Burmese python in her pet store could be the mystery reptile since it has been there for more than a year. Still, people who come into the store have started calling it the Moccasin Creek snake.

There has been at least one other report of a large snake in Moccasin Creek. The other call came in to the police department on July 31, but according to Police Chief Ken Schwab, no snake has been found. ?It?s kind of like the Loch Ness monster,? he says.

Weaver says he?s walked up and down Moccasin Creek hundreds of times, and he?s never seen a scary animal. In extremely hot and humid summer months, a tropical snake could potentially live there. Does this mean that a South Dakota-born giant snake could possibly still be out there?

?Absolutely not,? says Terry Phillip, assistant curator of Reptiles at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. Phillip says that the biggest native snake on record in South Dakota is 7 ? feet, and about as big around as a golf ball. Usually he only sees snakes around 5 feet long.

If this giant snake does exist, Phillip says it would have to be somebody?s pet Burmese python that got loose. It wouldn?t be native to South Dakota, and it definitely couldn?t survive long in cold weather.

?These stories get exaggerated and out of control,? he says. ?Once a story gets started, the snake gets bigger and bigger?If somebody saw a 23-foot snake, they would tell you it was 60 feet.?

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