Top Navigation

A Boa Constrictor in Arlington?

GIANT BOA CONSTRICTOR FOUND IN ARLINGTON — The giant creature sparked quite a commotion in the neighborhood in about 1950. Thus, an expert was called to the rescue. The world’s most famous snake specialist, the legendary Ross Allen, ran a reptile institute at Silver Springs near Ocala. The serpent hunter drove to Arlington and then clumped through the brush and poked under rocks. He finally found the boa in an armadillo hole at what is now Tree Hill Nature Center. (This is located near the intersection of Arlington Road and the Arlington Expressway.) What do you do if a monster doesn’t want to come out of hiding? Mr. Allen and an associate, Dr. Neil, borrowed shovels from a nearby home and started digging. They eventually recovered the snake and took him to Silver Springs.

A TIGHT SQUEEZE — A witness to this strange occurrence was Arlington historian Cleve Powell, a boy at the time. As Mr. Powell later recounted, Ross Allen let him hold the 10.5 foot rainbow boa on his shoulders. The expert casually warned him to apply pressure near the snake’s head if the creature started to constrict. According to Mr. Powell, it’s a wonder that he didn’t choke the snake to death.

Did you know that snakes can get ticks? In the center of the photo, Mr. Allen is removing the bloodsuckers from the Arlington reptile. Clutching the snake on the left is Dr. Neil, while Mr. Powell’s grandfather looks on from the right. At least some boas might soak in pools of water in order to alleviate the pests, as explained at Boa-Subspecies.com.

The errant snake could have slithered off one of the banana boats that used to dock in Jacksonville, theorized Ross Allen. Stowaways on the vessels already included large tarantulas that clung to the fruit. According to the Tree Hill Nature Center website, the snake was an escapee from a circus. Other seldom-seen animals have also visited the Tree Hill locale, the website notes. The Johnson family owned a farm there called Red Bay Ranch. During the period 1930 to 1950, a Florida panther raided the property for a rabbit, a brown bear with cubs invaded the henhouse, and a bald eagle swiped a chicken.

By the way, you may have seen Ross Allen in a classic old movie, but you didn’t realize it. He played a very special part in “The Yearling,” which was partly filmed at Silver Springs in 1946. In one scene, Penny Baxter, the father of the boy who later adopted the deer, reached through a bush and was bitten by a rattlesnake. The arm struck by the serpent belonged to Mr. Allen. He thickly wrapped his limb in order to protect it, and he received top dollar for the stunt.

~written by Glenn Emery

 

Copyright © 2019 by Jacksonville Historical Society