Posted: Aug. 6, 2013, 12:15 p.m. EDT
An African rock python escaped from its cage in a New Brunswick, Canada, pet shop and slithered into the store owner’s upstairs apartment, where it strangled two young boys, according to media reports.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is investigating the deaths, which are believed to have occurred Sunday night or early Monday.
Police did not identify the snake species or size, but the National Post reported the animal is an African rock python, which may grow up to 20 feet long in the wild and consume prey as large as antelope.
Reptile Ocean is an exotic pet store in Campbellton, New Brunswick.
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African rock pythons are nonvenomous snakes native to Sub-Saharan Africa.
A preliminary investigation found that the snake escaped from Reptile Ocean "sometime overnight and got into the ventilation system, then into the upstairs apartment,” said Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh of the New Brunswick division of the Royal Canadian
"It's believed the two boys were strangled by the snake
,” which was captured, she added.
The boys, ages 5 and 7, were brothers attending a sleepover in the town of Campbellton, the National Post stated.
Reptile Ocean’s owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, told Global News that he was "in shock” and "I don’t know what to think.”
"I thought they were sleeping until I [saw] the hole in the ceiling,” he added. "I turned the lights on and I [saw] this horrific scene.”
Reptile Ocean was visited in 1996 by representatives of the animal protection charity Zoocheck Canada and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, both out of Toronto. Their report, "Zoos in Maritime Canada,” listed a wide range of animals kept in the store, including an American alligator, caiman, Nile monitor, piranha, Indian python
, and green and yellow anacondas.
The store received a generally positive review. "All the reptiles seen appeared to be in good health,” the report disclosed, and "there was protective glass partitions between the public and the exhibits.”
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