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Expert: Snake in picture not so large

May 24, 2012 at 1:07 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C., May 24 (UPI) -- A South Carolina wildlife official said a snake a man photographed on a tree in his yard is not the 15-foot python it appears to be, but a 6-foot rat snake.

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.

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