Shortly after 9 a.m. Friday morning, Ted Argote returned home from dropping his wife at work, parked in front of his Panola Street home and, as he walked out the door, called out a greeting to the paisley-patterned python that has recently begun sunning itself every morning in the front yard.
“Good morning, Indiana!” Argote said, using a nickname picked in homage to Harrison Ford’s famously snake-averse archaeologist.
While the sudden appearance of the exotic jungle carpet python on Panola Street was odd, even odder still is the litany of wild animals appearing around Uptown of late, and residents’ largely nonchalant reaction to them. With a supposed boa constrictor on Burdette, parakeets in Palmer Park, a peacock on Cohn and a fashionable little kangaroo (or wallaby) spotted on upper Magazine Street, it has been hard to tell this week where the zoo stops and the neighborhoods begin.
Indiana’s new home
When the snake first appeared, they took a handsome photo of it and sent it to Audubon Zoo, where it was identified as a jungle carpet python, a non-venomous species native to Australia that can grow to more than eight feet long. Because of the way it coils itself in the tall garden grass, Indiana’s length is hard to estimate, though the Argotes guess him to be four or five feet long.
What do you do when you find a python in your yard? NOPD Officer Wilfred Eddington, who handles quality-of-life complaints in the Second District, called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, but both agencies told him that they wouldn’t come pick up a snake that isn’t poisonous. Eddington said he was surprised that “in a city this size,” there is no agency to pick up such an animal, but said he wasn’t qualified to do it himself.
“I’ll chase a perpetrator down an alley any day, but I don’t fool with snakes,” Eddington said.
The Argotes have put an ad about the snake on Craigslist — perhaps one of the more unusual postings there of late, or perhaps not — in hopes that a snake enthusiast will come adopt Indiana before the winter, when he may be unable to survive the cold. Until then, they are in no hurry for him to leave.
“He’s not bothering me,” Argote said. “If he’s happy there, he can stay until somebody finds a home for him.”Midway through Indiana’s Friday morning sunning session, postal carrier Vendetta Ross-Tyler came by the house to drop off the mail. Initially frightened to hear there was a snake underfoot, she ultimately couldn’t resist leaning over the liriope bed for a look.
“Isn’t that pretty?” Ross-Tyler said, but noted that Indiana wouldn’t be the most unusual creature she’d see on her route. On Cohn Street, she said, she sees a peacock out front waiting for her every morning.
“It just walks the street all day,” Ross-Tyler said of the peacock. “He’s been there like three years.”
Really, a kangaroo?
Indeed, Ross-Tyler’s reaction to the python was typical among Uptowners: Everyone has seen something odder, even just this week. Ray Cannata, a pastor, former neighborhood association leader and documentary film subject, was walking on Magazine Street on Wednesday, and out in front of Bee Sweet Cupcakes, he saw a baby kangaroo swaddled in a laundry basket in the front seat of a vintage Corvette 427.
Bakery owner Steve Veech said he remembered the car and the customer — who struck him as “a little bit eccentric” — but he didn’t see the kangaroo. Based on the description, Veech suggested that the animal Cannata saw might have been a wallaby, the kangaroo’s smaller cousin.
Cannata said he couldn’t be sure.
“I tell you what: I’m positive it wasn’t a dog,” Cannata said. “But I’m kicking myself that I didn’t wait five minutes until she came out, to ask.”
The Panola Street python is not the first news-making reptile from Uptown this week. Over the weekend, several news reports described what was first called a boa constrictor in an email sent to the mailing list of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association:
I would like to report two sightings of a 6 foot BOA CONSTRICTOR snake in the 400 block of Burdette Street. The first sighting was a couple of months ago underneath a house on the corner of Pearl and Burdette streets and the second sighting was last week at 10pm the night before the first day of school in front of Benjamin Banneker Elementary School (seen by the Janitor and Sister Noel). It was observed sitting on top of the catch basin drain directly in front of the school and it slithered across the street into the catch basin drain directly opposite the school.
Obviously this is a very scary and dangerous situation. I will be contacting Councilperson Guidry, the SPCA and the City as well, but any help that you all can give us would be greatly appreciated!!
Since then, said association president Patrick Tucker, that snake has been photographed and identified as a ball python, another non-poisonous species native to Africa. It seems unlikely that it was the same snake as Indiana — Burdette to Panola is about a mile-and-a-half long slither.
“If there’s one, there might be two,” noted Erik Jungerbacker, association vice president. “There’s some crazy animals in New Orleans. I wouldn’t be surprised.”
And on that note, Jungerbacker asked if the reporter had heard about the flock of wild parakeets that live in Palmer Park.