Photo in the News: Snake Swallows Electric Blanket

snake swallows electric blanket
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July 24, 2006—The latest trick by Houdini the Burmese python almost proved to be his last.

Surgery was required to save the 12-foot (3.5-meter) snake when it made a meal of a queen-size electric blanket, complete with electrical cord and control box, as seen in this July 19 photo. The blanket's wiring extended through about 8 feet (2.5 meters) of the the 60-pound (27-kilogram) reptile's digestive tract (inset).

The blanket probably got tangled up with the snake's rabbit dinner, owner Karl Beznoska of Ketchum, Idaho, told the Associated Press. Beznoska keeps the blanket in Houdini's cage to keep the animal warm, because pythons can't generate their own body heat.

Veterinarians Karsten Fostvedt and Barry Rathfon had never performed surgery on a snake before, but they called up some specialists for advice on where to operate. Afterward, Fostvedt told AP that Houdini's "prognosis is great."

The booming trade in exotic pets is creating huge problems for conservation biologists. Many owners are abandoning their Burmese pythons in Florida after they reach full size, for example, and scientists fear the invasive species will overrun the Everglades National Park (see "Huge, Freed Pet Pythons Invade Florida Everglades" [June 3, 2004]).

—Aalok Mehta

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