Snake tale: Slithering serpent's legend grows

(Source: Andrew Philson)
(Source: Andrew Philson)

It's the talk of at least one part of Columbia and it all started Tuesday with a phone call from a concerned neighbor.

Heathwood resident Andrew Philson got a call about a snake in his backyard and thought he'd be finding a small garter or black snake, but got the shock of his life when he saw the beast slithering up one of his trees.

That snake has slithered his way into the national spotlight. First, WIS, then CNN, Fox, even the Drudge Report. Why? Well, it's a big snake and who knows how long it had been sneaking -- or snaking -- around in Philson's backyard?

One thing Philson does know, the darn thing was huge. "I'm saying 15 to 20 feet long," he said.

Philson lost track of the snake shortly after taking the pictures, which have now shown up on TV monitors and web sites all over the world. They've also led to some criticism from people including South Carolina Department of Natural Resources snake expert Steve Bennett.

Bennett says it's a rat snake, plain and simple -- a common and useful creature and one that as far as anyone knows, never gets anywhere close to the size claimed by Philson.

"What happens is when people see these things, they are so shocked and probably scared, it changes their whole way of thinking," Bennett said.

Philson does not seem like someone prone to panic, even in the presence of an oversized reptile. A former state trooper, Philson recently served a tour of military duty in Afghanistan.

"I know that when I testified in court in my previous job, that accuracy counts," Philson said.

"People who are otherwise fairly honest and you know, straightforward people, will see something like that and just automatically overestimate and exaggerate the size of it," Bennett said. "It's just human nature.

A wildlife removal company is planning to conduct an all-out search for the snake on Thursday.

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