Odd News Show

Snake in the Drain: Mystery Boa Constrictor Apprehended in NYC Apartment

Manhattan’s Upper West Side is not the native habitat of boa constrictors, but one made itself right at home in a ground-level apartment.

By Katie Compa · June 8, 2024

Can a fella get a good slice around here? (Yes, actually! Sal and Carmine's at 101st & Broadway) William Warby/Flickr

On an otherwise normal Wednesday morning, the NYC emergency switchboard lit up as a resident called in a sighting of a five-foot-long boa constrictor, spotted climbing up an exterior wall, trying to get into an apartment building on West 87th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus. (Relatively, it was a lil’ guy—boas can grow up to 13 feet in length.)

Many of the tiny Upper West Side's brownstones have backyards, which is why we rent in Queens.  Elias Rovielo/Flickr

The slithery visitor evidently did gain entry to a ground-level apartment (what, was he supposed to take the stairs? My man was probably exhausted from his journey—boas are native to South America), curled up in a sink until authorities arrived to, ironically, de-snake the drain.

The NYPD initially misidentified the creature as a python when it was in fact a boa constrictor, but honestly? Potato, pot-ahto. Keep it away from us!

The neighborhood is arguably the epicenter of New York’s hottest NIMBY scene, so an out-of-place reptile was never going to be welcomed with open arms, especially when it’s a natural predator of prized UWS residents like Flaco the Euro-Asian Eagle Owl, recently deceased just blocks away. 

Residents expressed concern that the snake might eat their cats or their small children. Calm down, Karen—boa constrictors are non-venomous and there are surely more than enough rats outside (or sometimes inside!) a basement apartment for a snake to snack on for weeks at a time, at least until it gets unlucky and snarfs a couple of poisoned ones.

No one knows where the snake came from—and likely will never find out, since Snakes of Unusual Size are among the animals that are illegal to own in the city. In general, we don’t talk to cops unless we’re subpoenaed, but If we were to find out that our neighbor harbored a giant snake, we’d snitch on them so fast.

The list of illegal pets according to NYC law is longer than the list of legal ones, which again does not include boa constrictors. Also barred from sharing human homes are kangaroos, wolves, big cats, ferrets (which we are pretty sure we’ve seen on the subway multiple times), squirrels, raccoons, zoo animals, tarantulas, iguanas, primates, wild birds, and hooved animals like deer and camels. And whales—let us not leave out whales, and further add that we would love to see that apartment. 

The boa has been placed in foster care outside the city, and we will refrain from making any Harry Potter references except to say that evidently, Manhattan Animal Care and Control named the little guy Severus. 

Perhaps it’s unofficially New York Snake Week—only days earlier, a resident went to pick up a sofa in a UHaul van when he found a live snake under the driver’s seat. Thinking it was a toy, he picked it up, but found it was warm and then it turned and looked at him, whereupon he crashed into the vehicle ahead of him, understandably

We will be bringing up both incidents in therapy this week, and doubling up on our Victorian sleeping draughts, just to be on the safe side.