Police are trying to identify the suspect who broke into a North Carolina reptile store and swiped $30,000 worth of snakes, including a rare python worth $12,500, police said.
“We have heard about dogs being stolen before,” Donna Lahser, public information officer at the Gastonia Police Department, told ABC News. “But cases where snakes are stolen are very rare.”
Lahser said the suspect seen on the store's surveillance video hasn’t been identified.
Jonathan McMillan, owner of Reptile Passion said he was shocked when he found out that 35 snakes have been stolen from his store last Sunday, including a rare pied tiger reticulated python, which is valued at $12,500.
“There are only about 15 to 20 of them [pied tiger reticulated python] in America,” McMillan said.
He said the thief broke the window with a stone around 3 a.m. Sunday, walked straight into the back room of the store, and took out 35 snakes including albino pythons, albino super tigers, albino red tail boas and albino pythons, totaling about $30,000.
The burglary took only a few minutes to carry out and he could be heard talking to an apparent partner on the phone. After he took out the most expensive snake from the tub and threw it in the bag, the suspect said into his phone, “I got the tiger python.”
The suspect could be seen quickly taking the snakes out of other boxes and shoving them into a bag.
“Whoever it was had to have been in here last week because I move stuff around a lot for cleaning,” McMillan said. “He knew exactly what he was looking for.”
McMillan suspects the thief would sell the snakes to other reptile fans.
McMillan has only found a missing gecko, which he said probably jumped out and ran under the rack when the thief opened its tub. McMillan said he had been getting calls from reptile lovers from New Jersey to Florida, telling him they would keep an eye out on Craigslist for possible ads.
“The reptile community is very small and close-knit,” McMillan said. “No matter if it’s a fire, or a burglary, we always look out for each other.”
McMillan had been in the reptile business for 20 years, but had opened the shop about four months ago.
Tips can be made to Crime Stoppers of Gaston County at 704-861-8000.