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A Giant Python On The Loose Has Rattled Poland

Ever since July, Poland has been captivated by a nationwide hunt for a missing 16-foot python, which remains on the loose in the suburbs of Warsaw.

The full epic tale was laid out in the Wall Street Journal this week.

The Journalreports that the missing snake is named Bertha, and extensive searches have all been in vain — although three other "exotic snakes slithering through town" were busted in the search for big Bertha.

But the news has been bubbling quietly for nearly two months. The story begins in early July, when a massive snakeskin, shed by an Indian python, was found south of the capital, as Radio Poland reported at the time. Residents were warned to avoid taking walks near the banks of the Vistula river, with special caution for children and pets that might make for python-size snacks.

The situation prompted this headline on the website Poland in English: " Writhing terror — the hunt continues."

Firefighters used drones and boats to hunt for the out-of-place creature, as Radio Poland wrote in an update a week later. Still no sign of it.

Scores of volunteers helped take thousands of photographs of the riverbanks, which they passed on to wildlife experts in the hopes of spotting the python, which was believed to be sluggish and extremely well-camouflaged, The Telegraph reported.

Then there was the problem of the river — pythons are good swimmers. It could have traveled 100 km, more than 62 miles, a zoo director told local television, according to The Telegraph.

English-language headlines quieted down after that. But Polish fascination with the missing python was unabated, The Wall Street Journal writes:

"For a country riven by a culture war between its nationalist government and the liberal opposition, the thought of a cruise-missile-length serpent hunting pets in the Warsaw suburbs has become a welcome summer diversion. Thousands of Poles have shared rumors, grim jokes and memes guessing the predator's motives or next moves. ...

"And yet nobody has found Bertha, who is suspected to have been someone's pet. If she isn't found before autumn, her coldblooded life will end with the summer."

The entire Wall Street Journal article is well worth a read. It features a hang glider, erotic photography, a lock-picking chimpanzee and a Facebooking fisherman.

For the full story of the snake's travels, reporter Drew Hinshaw says he interviewed scientists, police, search parties and "a Belgian shepherd named Cocaine who came closer than any man or machine to finding the missing snake."

Alas, while Cocaine discovered "fur-lined snake excrement" and several basking spots, she did not locate the python ... or provide any snappy quotes for the story.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.