A 2-foot-long Western diamondback rattlesnake was discovered more than 1,000 miles from its indigenous lands on Tuesday in Stowe.
Authorities believe the snake was likely brought to Pittsburgh from its natural habitat in Mexico and the southwestern United States.
Paul McIntyre, chief of Triangle Pet Control Service Co. of McKees Rocks, said people were cleaning an abandoned house in the 600 block of Broadway Street when they heard rattling sounds and found the snake trapped in a wooden box with a lid.
"I'm sure someone bought it as a pet, didn't know what they were buying, and one bite will kill you," Mr. McIntyre said.
"Even if it doesn't kill you, you'd wish it had. They have enough venom in them to bite and bite and bite and bite," he said.
He believes the animal was likely left behind when previous tenants left and he has contacted several different agencies that might be willing to take it.
Henry Kacprzyk, curator of reptiles and Kids Kingdom at the Pittsburgh Zoo, said ownership of non-native venomous snakes like the diamondback is largely unregulated in the state, with the exception of some municipal ordinances.
"You would think a highly venomous animal would come under somebody's jurisdiction, but that's not the case," he said.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission requires residents to seek permits for many native venomous snake species, but doesn't regulate ownership of non-native species.
Bill Savatt, code enforcement officer in Stowe, said the township doesn't have any ordinances that address snakes.
Although the Western diamondback is not endangered, Mr. Kacprzyk said their populations are dwindling.
"These snakes are in major decline because they are still used for these things like rattlesnake round-ups in places like Texas and Arizona," he said.
"They don't make a good pet from a conservation or a safety standpoint."neigh_west
Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or firstname.lastname@example.org.