#BVUSnakeEscape Lead Goes Cold

Olivia Wieseler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Bob Brodman noticed the gate to the snake tank enclosure in the live animal and taxidermy lab was sitting open at a 90degree angle.  Upon closer inspection, Brodman realized that his rat snake, not native to the Midwest, was missing.   

Knowing that some of his students often used the three snakes in the cage for education and outreach, Brodman’s first thought was that one of his students took the snake to a program and forgot to latch the lid shut.  However, after quick messages to his academic assistants, he learned that this was not the case. Either the snake had escaped, or someone had stolen it. 

“Even if it wasn’t latched, if the snake had come up, the lid would only come up an inch; he would slither out,” explained Brodman.  “The lid was up at a 90-degree angle, and you kind of have to do it on purpose to keep it there.” 

Brodman suspected that someone stole the snake for that very reason, although he acknowledged that it could have escaped after someone forgot to latch the gate.  At first, he was hoping that if someone did take it, they would return it right away.  But when that did not happen, he warned his students in class to be on the lookout for a snake, explaining to them that it was harmless. 

Nevertheless, snakes are feared by many people; thus, one particularly upset student called campus security to investigate.  Campus security declined to comment on the investigation.  Brodman said they looked at surveillance cameras of the lab, but because the room was dark when the cameras were filming, they could not see anything in the footage. 

“Then they [campus security] went around the building telling everybody the snake is on the loose,” Brodman said. “I wanted to keep this on the down-low, because although they are harmless animals, I know that many people have really highintensity fear of snakes, and I [didn’t] want panic to set in or somebody to feel like they can’t come into the building.” 

Unfortunately for Brodman, the news spread like wildfire across the small campus.  Professors told their students, students told friends.  However, the most popular way of receiving the information was through a Twitter thread started by Dr. Benjamin Maas, associate professor of environmental science and geology.  

“I figured that people might want to know there’s a snake missing, and the students already know, so it was going to get out anyways.  And so then, it turned into the fiasco that it turned into,” said Maas. 

Maas kept regular updates on the snake, letting his Twitter followers know the status of the #BVUsnakeescape.  At one point, the snake got confused with a bird that flew into Pierce-White. 

I heard the rumors that security found the snake in one of the dorms.  Apparently, there was a video on Snapchat with it, and you know, a security person with it in a net,” said Brodman.  “But it turned out that there was a bird in the dorm, and they caught the bird. The bird was in the net, and they brought the bird to release it outside.” 

“There’s, I guess, somehowthebird-got-confused-withthesnake incident,” said Maas. “And so then we went back to, well, we don’t know where it is.  And so now, I’ve just been reminding people it’s still missing.” 

Maas said that his original tweet was meant to help make people aware of the situation.  However, as the tweet got more interaction, and students in particular enjoyed it, he continued the thread. 

“It transitioned very quickly from helping to just not helping,” said Maas. “Reminding people that it is, in fact, harmless…and armless.” 

However, while this side of the snake chase has been fun for the BVU community, the loss of the rat snake hit a personal chord with Brodman, who received the snake as a gift from a retired friend at another college. 

“I feel responsible to him,” said Brodman. “He gave me this [snake] because he figured I’d be somebody that would take good care of it, and now it’s gone, and I don’t know if it’s being take care of.” 

Brodman mentioned that incidents like these are what cause distrust between students and professors.  Currently, the professors in the science center have a policy that leaves most labs and classrooms unlocked for research and study, but when instances like this happen, it might be enough for change.  

Pictured is one of Dr. Brodman’s other two snakes, the fox snake. This is not the snake that went missing.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’re trusting the right people.  But we have an instance like this, it does make you think about maybe we’re being too welcoming, and unfortunately, maybe we do need to think about, at least, some of the places need to be locked at five or six o’clock whenever the last professor leaves, just to secure what’s in there.” 

As of right now, there are no plans to change the policy, and the snake is still missing.  Rumors have said the snake is dead, but Brodman has not heard any official update from campus security about the matter.  Until then, it is just a waiting game. 

“I hope they find it,” said Maas. “If somebody did take it, at least find out who took it, but I hope that it does come back because, at least, it would help put this to rest.” 

If you have information on the escaped snake, please contact Dr. Brodman at [email protected] or Campus Security at [email protected]. 

Update Mar. 15, 2019: Tonia Henning found shedded rat snake on the second floor of the Science Center.  The snake itself has not been found, but the skin is a sign that it is in the building.