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Snake on MUNI Frightens Some, Fascinates Others

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A similar-looking snake was recently seen riding MUNI.

An unusual passenger took MUNI riders by surprise last week. A harmless snake found its way aboard an outbound K-Ingleside train. Video shows the curious serpent climbing the articulated bend. Identified as a boa constrictor, a nonvenomous breed and popular pet, the specimen frightened some and fascinated others. The man seated closest to the reptile seemed not to notice.

The origins of the snake remain unknown. Commenters suggested it escaped its handler while others, concerned for the boa’s safety, hoped a quick-thinking passenger called animal control. Tech workers joked that the snake was proficient in Python. Others wondered whether the lost reptile paid fare. The likeliest source, an owner desperately missing their pet. 

A snake on MUNI is not unheard of. A Bloomberg article from 2015 cites terrified Tweets about a snake brought aboard a MUNI vehicle. In either case, the serpent in question did not pose a threat to humans. Owners of boa constrictors will gladly go on about how chill their pets are. Of all the animals one may encounter on their commute, a snake is rather unsettling.

“I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking train!”

A neural response to the shape and color of snakes exists: standard primal defense procedure. Research has proven this bias gets stronger as we grow, checked by education but never extinguished. When managed, it mellows into a healthy respect for these symbiotic creatures, best admired from a distance. Unchecked, it could morph into a phobia. “Fuck this person,” one Redditor said. “I have a SERIOUS snake phobia and legitimately retched at this video. Thanks for unlocking a whole new fear: snakes on the fucking bus.”

San Francisco is not a great habitat for snakes. The only species of snake endemic to the Peninsula is the San Francisco garter snake. For many, its turquoise, red and black racing stripes make it one of North America’s most beautiful snakes. You won’t find this snake on MUNI, however. Its extreme shyness and fragmented habitat result in rare encounters. Its capture is illegal, as the species is endangered. Your best bet for snake-sighting, including the San Francisco garter snake, is the SF Zoo.

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Rattlesnakes are cool because they’re nice enough to warn you. The alert pours ice down your back as you instinctively freeze at the sound. Mount Diablo, Tilden Park, Mission Peak, Wildcat Canyon—all prime rattler country. These snakes get their hunting done at night. If you see one during the day, that’s because it’s moving somewhere more comfortable to wait out the daylight. Give the snake a wide berth. If you’ve stepped within striking distance, back away slowly, make no sudden moves. They bite as a last defense.

“Weeeeee’re sssssuperrrrr venomousssssssssss.”

Boa constrictors on the other hand are cool because they won’t kill you. I’d like to think people understood that but in this day and age, who knows? The boa aboard the K-Ingleside was not dangerous and I hope it is safe. Imagine how scared he must’ve felt, if indeed he had feelings. Knowing how docile this species is, I’d have gladly rescued him and let him play in my building’s protected courtyard. The feast of rats alone would be reason enough for him to stay. “I live in the Tenderloin and have a pet snake” is such a boss sentence. I’m already forming a parasocial relationship with this boa constrictor. If his owner showed up to collect him, I would do the right thing and return him, but it’d be hard.

I sincerely hope somebody intervened and looked after the little guy. The bend of a MUNI train isn’t friendly to anything caught in its folds. Moreover, snakes depend entirely on their surroundings to regulate their body temperatures. Boa constrictors need a warm, humid habitat to survive—80℉ at least. The snake was on a train to the Outer Mission, a hostile environment for ectotherms, or “cold-blooded” animals. 

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.