A baby snake that reported stolen Friday from a Metro East business has been safely recovered after some quick detective work by a good Samaritan.
On Thursday, workers at the Tye-Dyed Iguana in O’Fallon noticed an 18-inch baby Colombian red-tail boa constrictor was missing from its cage. Owner Matt Smallheer said at first, they thought it had just escaped.
“It was odd because it’s in a relatively escape-proof cage, but we checked it and double checked it and sure enough, it was gone,” he said.
So the next day, Smallheer said he decided to check out footage from the store’s surveillance cameras.
“I started rolling back the footage and sure enough, yesterday (Thursday) morning at 10:05 to be exact, we had a pair of guys steal the snake,” he said.
Smallheer provided a copy of the footage showing the alleged theft.
On the tape, you see two young men in the store. One of them is seen taking the snake from its cage before slipping it into his pants pocket.
A few moments later, they both exit the store.
Smallheer said his employees had recognized the pair from prior visits. He said they were acting strangely from the moment they arrived.
“They were pretty abrupt when they came in. One went to the restroom. One started looking around. They insulted me, my store and our prices,” he explained.
Smallheer said every animal at the store is kept in a secured cage, but not one that requires a lock or key. He said his business pretty much runs on the honor system.
He said while exotic pet stores are often targeted by criminals who turn around and sell the animals, he doesn’t think that is the case this time.
“I think this was a compulsive act on this person’s behalf. I don’t think he came in here looking for a boa constrictor. I think he came in here for the thrill of a theft,” Smallheer said.
To help get the word out about what happened, Smallheer posted the surveillance footage on social media.
He said, “By this (Friday) afternoon, I think it had 47,000 views and 2,200 shares.”
One of the people who saw it was snake enthusiast Adam Schneider of Carrollton.
Schneider also happened to know of the boys in the video, so he tracked them down to the Jerseyville area and alerted police.
“That’s the Missouri reptile community. It’s just what we do for each other. Got to watch out for each other. Especially for small businesses,” Schneider said.
On Friday night, Schneider was able to bring the snake back to the store unharmed.
But Smallheer still has a message that he hopes is tough enough to make a criminal’s skin crawl.
‘If you decide you’re going to steal from us, we’re not going to make you famous. We’re going to make you infamous,” he said.
At last check, O’Fallon Police said the juvenile boy accused of stealing the snake was in custody and being held in Madison County on unrelated charges.