'She's really sweet' - Python goes missing in Beech Grove

Benny Tarplee's Burmese Python "Vine" went missing in the Beech Grove area.
Pet python on the loose
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BEECH GROVE, Ind. (WTHR) — A big heads-up for Beech Grove residents, especially if you have small pets.

A resident is warning neighbors his 14-foot Burmese python got out last week and police say there's still no sign of it.

Benny Tarplee says "Vine" got out the back door of his house five days ago in the 400 block of Byland Avenue. He calls the python a big baby and says she's probably hiding somewhere right now.

The question is where.

"As long as you leave her alone, she'll leave you alone," said Tarplee

"She's really sweet," said neighbor Tori Rigsby. She said she met Vine last week at Tarplee's house.

"It's a pet so she's been inside for a long time," Rigsby said.

Tarplee said Vine got out of the house accidentally.

"My friend left the cage unlocked on cleaning day and we didn't have heat in the house and we had the back door cracked, so about 8 hours later, I found she was missing," Tarplee said.

He said he spent three days searching his house before going to police.

"A 14-foot snake can hide well in your house. I checked all the walls. I checked the attic," said Tarplee.

"There's not a place I didn't check in the house before I went there," Tarplee said, referring to his call to police. "I'm not trying to cause a public panic here."

Laura Schroeder said she is worried. She found three of her pet rabbits dead in the backyard Tuesday afternoon.

"When I came home all three of them were just right here," said Laura Schroeder in her backyard, just down the block from Tarplee's.

"There's a hole in the wire in their cage and they were all on the ground, no wounds," Schroeder explained.

She said she doesn't know what to think. "It could be a coincidence."

Until Vine is found, though, Schroeder's not taking any chances.

"We have two chihuahuas too, so we don't want to let them out too much," Schroeder said, picking up her cat in the driveway.

"She's very capable of eating small mammals," said Tarplee. But, he said, people have nothing to worry about.

"It's not a threat to a human. She cannot eat you. She will unable to swallow you," said Tarplee. "I’m concerned about everyone's safety in this situation. If you find her, don't touch her. She's not aggressive. She will get defensive."

Neighbors are glad for the warning.

"Heads up for sure," said neighbor Cindy Crum. "I'm not so nervous, I don’t have small dogs or pets, but if I did, I'd be really nervous."

"At the end of the day, animals are not your enemy," said Tarplee. "They're just there to survive and get through the day. Don't touch her and she won't touch you."

The Indianapolis Zoo is on standby in case police need help catching the snake.

They showed Eyewitness News their Burmese python, which is about four feet shorter than the one that disappeared. Zoo experts say this species is typically pretty mellow, but the snake is likely scared in unfamiliar surroundings.

Dogs and cats could be in danger, especially smaller breeds, but humans shouldn't have much to worry about with a little bit of caution.

"For the most part, you should be safe as long as you're not trying to crawl through places that have hiding holes and especially first thing in the morning, warm basking areas," said Peggy Hoppe, curator of Primates & Deserts at the Indianapolis Zoo. "They can injure any sized person, so obviously, be careful. But smaller children are obviously the bigger concern, because they can wrap themselves fully around a small child."

Both zoo officials and Beech Grove police say if you see the python, don’t approach it for any reason and call 911.

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