Trio of illegal snakes found in B.C. distribution centre

It’s amazing what finds its way into the mail.

Last week, three venomous and illegal-to-own mountain pit vipers (Ovophis monticola) were discovered by the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service in a package destined for Manitoba. While two of the snakes had died in transit, the third specimen was found loose in a larger box after it escaped the confines of its shipping container. This surviving snake was quickly caught and is being handled by specialists.

Deputy Chief Chris Doyle described the vipers as “dangerous” and confirmed there’s no anti-venom currently in existence for this species in Canada.

Inspector Murray Smith said the service received a call from the Richmond, B.C. mail branch reporting the discovery of live snakes. The package was mailed from China to a Canada Post distribution centre in British Columbia this July. Smith said conservation officers often encounter people in possession of exotic creatures; however, he added this was the first time he had personally heard of animals being sent through the mail.

“Obviously somebody in Canada Post didn’t think this was right,” said Smith. “It makes me think it was very much out of the routine.”

While these snakes are illegal to own under British Columbia’s Wildlife Act, the laws pertaining to exotic animals are different in other provinces.

Smith said officials are currently investigating whether anyone in British Columbia is connected to importing the vipers; one that’s complete, the fate of the surviving snake will be determined.

According to the Reptile Database, mountain pit vipers are found in Asia; Nepal; India; Bangladesh; Myanmar; Tibet; China (Zhejiang, Fujian, Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet); Cambodia; Thailand; Laos; Vietnam; West Malaysia; Singapore and Indonesia (Sumatra).

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