For over three months now, Poland has been held in suspense by this fugitive. An escaped prisoner? No, just a snake nicknamed Bertha. But this is not just any snake, it is a python molurus, a species normally native to Asia. Several moults found on the banks of the Vistula, the river that runs through the capital Warsaw, are proof of her presence.
On July 7th, Animal Rescue Poland (the Polish equivalent of the RSPCA) received a report about a six and a half foot long snake skin found along the river. After investigating the banks another skin was found a few days later, this time measuring more than 16 feet and some 20 inches in diameter. They say that the animal could measure up to 23 feet from head to tail.
Substantial efforts put in place
Quickly identified as a female python, the animal remains missing for the moment. However, it is not for lack of serious measures being put into place. Four drones, 80 volunteers, firefighters and even a detection dog are a part of the hunt, but they remain for the moment unsuccessful. On July 10th, the ARP discovered traces of Bertha's tracks in the mud but it is still a mystery as to the animal’s current location.
'This species of snakes are good swimmers. If she was in the Vistula, swimming with the current, she may already be 60 miles from where she moulted,' said the director of the Warsaw zoo, Radoslaw Ratajszczak, to LiveScience. More than 2,000 photos have been taken and are being analyzed by specialists to find clues about Bertha's whereabouts.
Threatened by low temperatures
The python molurus is a constrictor snake that usually attacks rodents or small mammals by biting them and then suffocating them with their powerful body. For humans however, the risks are limited, since no cases of this type of python attacking man have been recorded. According to specialists, it is therefore the animal at hand who is in risk of danger.
Most likely released by a breeder unable to care for her as she grew to her adult size, she may not survive the autumn or winter with Poland’s sub zero temperatures. A positive aspect of the situation is that the phone line set up for the authorities to help find Bertha has already led to the discovery and saving of three other exotic snakes.