Andrew Philson of Columbia said a neighbor alerted him to a snake in his back yard Monday and he snapped a photo of what appeared to be a 15-foot python before it disappeared prior to a trapping service's arrival, The (Columbia) State reported Thursday.
The picture has gone viral online, raising concerns from many citizens about a huge serpent in their midst, but Department of Natural Resources herpetologist Steve Bennett said the snake actually appears to be a 6-foot rat snake.
He said rat snakes are "the mockingbirds of the reptilian world," explaining it's similar in appearance to a python and appears much larger in the picture than in real life due to an optical illusion known as forced perspective.
"People will get in a frenzy and it will blow over in a few days," Bennett said of the snake hysteria.
However, Philson said he is not convinced and will be on the lookout for the reptile.
"It's not a huge tree, but it's a huge snake," he said. "I'm not exaggerating."
A Twitter account, @SlithersSnake, purporting to be the serpent appeared online this week.
"Fame won't change me, I'm still a #slithasupastar," @SlitherSnake posted.