TORONTO // A 45-kilogram python blamed in the strangling deaths of two Canadian boys apparently escaped from its enclosure, slithered through a ventilation system and fell through the ceiling into the room where the young brothers were sleeping, authorities said.
A snake expert said it was possible that the python was spooked and simply clung to whatever it landed on. Police are conducting a criminal investigatiion into the deaths of Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Connor Barthe, 6, in Campbellton, New Brunswick.
Reptile expert Bry Loyst, from the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Ontario, said police had sought his advice.
Mr Loyst noted the boys had been playing with other animals hours earlier and he believes their scent might have attracted the snake.
Paul Goulet, founder and co-owner of Little Ray's Reptile Zoo in Ottawa, said snakes do not recognise humans as a source of food but if the children smelled like animals it could explain an attack.
"If a snake sees an animal moving, giving off heat and smells like a goat, what is it? It's a goat," Mr Goulet said. "The reasonable explanation of how this has happened is that they had been playing with farm animals, they did smell like their prey items and the snake sadly enough mistook them as a food item when they weren't."
A Barthe family spokesman said the kids had played with llamas, goats, horses, dogs and cats just a few hours earlier. The brothers had visited the apartment of a friend whose father owned an exotic pet store on the floor below, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Alain Tremblay said.
He said the 4.3-metre long African rock python was being kept in the second floor apartment, not in the pet store as authorities had stated.
Steve Benteau, a spokesman for the provincial Natural Resources Department, said no permit had been issued for an African rock python and authorities were not aware it was being kept at the apartment. The department said the snake is only permitted in accredited zoos, unless there is a special permit.
Sgt Tremblay said the snake was housed in a large glass enclosure that reached the ceiling of the apartment and escaped through a small hole in the ceiling connected to the ventilation system. He said the snake made its way through the ventilation system and moved towards the living room, where the boys were sleeping. The pipe collapsed and the snake fell.
The friend of the boys was sleeping in another room.
The pet store owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, said that he did not hear a sound and discovered the "horrific scene" when he went into his living room on Monday morning.