Lost snake returned safely after roaming Dolan for seven days


Photo from Megan Grantham.

Megan Grantham, Campus Editor

Last week, many students who regularly have class in Dolan Science Center were buzzing about a snake being loose in the building. 

The snake, a ball python named Lily, was reported missing Monday Feb. 3, when some of the graduate students who help care for her noticed she was not in her cage. Biology Department Chair Dr. Christopher Sheil explained that she was last seen the evening of Saturday Feb. 4. 

Sheil said that it was an odd weekend for Lily, as she was not in her regular cage, which is kept locked in the 2nd floor of Dolan Science Center, but was in a smaller travelling cage because the department is planning to upgrade her living space. 

Lily has been with John Carroll University for six years, but Sheil estimates she’s around 27 to 30 years old. The type of snake Lily is, a ball python, is a species commonly adopted as a pet, explained Sheil. “They’re really common as pets and they make great public education animals because they’re tender, they don’t get huge, and they’re not dangerous.”

Lily is one of two snakes housed at John Carroll, among many other reptiles used for Biology courses. “We have a number of animals like Lily in the collection that we use for teaching specimens in our biology labs. We’ve got turtles, and we’ve got lizards and snakes,” said Sheil.

The snake is taken care of by Dr. Ashley Wain, Principles of Biology Lab coordinator, as well as several graduate assistants. “All the animals get daily care, that’s how we noticed right away that something was going on with Lily. They see the animals each day when they come in, so you know, when Lily disappeared, we were kind of concerned,” said Sheil.

Sheil uses Lily in a few of his courses, and spoke of her timidity. “I teach a biology of reptilia class, so she’s definitely used there, where I teach students proper ways to handle reptiles. Lily’s a really timid snake, and a lot of students know her, since she’s present in the freshman labs and other classes.

“People portray this image that snakes are big and scary, but Lily is very timid, and when there’s a lot of activity, she doesn’t really want to be a part of that,” asserted Sheil.

Sheil also takes Lily off campus for special outreach opportunities. “I occasionally do outreach kind of things where I’ll go to elementary schools or kindergartens or places like that, and I always take teaching animals like turtles or lizards, and I usually take Lily because she’s so great with kids.”

When news that Lily was missing began circulating around campus, many people were concerned about the safety of the snake herself and also for the safety of the students, even though Lily is non-venomous. Hunger wasn’t an issue because Ball Pythons can survive up to six months without food.

Those who regularly take care of Lily searched the entirety of the freshman lab where the animals are kept, but found no sign of Lily. “We had an army of graduate students and a number of us looking everywhere, top to bottom, floor, ceiling, drawers, every place imaginable that she could be. And we just could not find her. We literally looked in every single place. We did all these things to try and find her and we had no clue as to where she was.

“But, you know, snakes make their living by being quiet and hiding and waiting for things, and she probably just found a nice quiet place, and was just relaxing,” said Sheil of what Lily was probably up to for her week out and about.

The news of a snake being loose in Dolan Science Center quickly spread around campus, with many students who heard the news feeling emotions ranging from excited to scared.

Junior Maguire Tausch found out about the snake while in Dolan for his Biochemistry class. “When we were in class, people were talking about the snake being loose in Dolan. So, someone in the class asked our professor, and she confirmed there was a snake loose in the building, and that it had been loose for a few days. No one really knew where it was or what it was doing. Apparently, the snake has gotten out before.”

“All I can say is the last thing I would want to run into is a snake when I go to class,” said Tausch.

Sophomore Megan Mcdonald said she found out about the snake one evening while going to Dolan Science Center for a lip sync practice for her sorority.

 “We were walking in and we heard some of the Graduate Assistants kind of freaking out, saying that they lost an animal, but we didn’t hear what it was, but we briefly heard python, and my heart kind of dropped.”

Lily was found safely on Sunday evening around 5:30 p.m in Dolan 216, the prep room for the lab, according to Dr. Wain. 

“I’m very glad that Lily the snake is back safely where she belongs,” said Sophomore biology major Hannah Parson.

However, how exactly Lily got out of her cage is still unknown. The room the animals are kept in only granted limited access, “the only time people are in there is when they’re teaching or when a class is running. Otherwise, you know, the doors are typically closed and locked,” said Sheil.

Sheil did not dismiss the possibility of someone letting Lily out or taking her for the time period she was gone. 

“The assumption was that she escaped. And you know, it’s possible that she escaped and was found by somebody and then brought back. But, it’s also possible that she was taken, you know?”

There may never be an answer to what kind of adventure Lily the snake had around Dolan Science Center for the seven days she was missing, but for the time being, she is safely back in her cage.