Chicago, IL

Exotic Pets On The Loose: Boa Constrictor Captured in Chicago Suburb

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

Exotic pets becoming more popular among regular pet owners

Boa Constrictor, Ball Python both slithered into the region in recent weeks

There's a snake - or two - hanging out in Chicago suburbs and residents aren't too happy about it. Word that yet another cold-blooded, slithering reptile was making its way through windy city yards could hardly be the welcome news that local homeowners wanted to hear.

This, of course, because the boa constrictor found in a suburban bush recently was unbelievably the second snake in two weeks to be revealed in the area. The first snake - a ball python captured two weeks earlier in the Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Dupage County - was found underneath a car parked on the street.

VIDEO: Boa Constrictor Behind the Bushes Captured in Chicago Suburb

These recent captures shouldn't surprise those living in and around the windy city. As a matter of fact, the growing popularity of pets that are anything but conventional, is increasing year-over-year.

According to Pawsome Advice, the popularity of exotic pets is on the rise. Statistics gathered by the site reveal:

  • 50% of pets in the US are considered exotic.
  • About 140 non-native reptiles and amphibians have been introduced to Florida.
  • The exotic pet industry is worth $15 billion a year.
  • 75% of reptiles from pet shops die within the first year.
  • Between 1990–2021, over 1,300 exotic pets have escaped in the US.
  • In 2011, over 50 wild animals were released in Zanesville, Ohio.
  • There were 91 incidents of death by exotic pets between 1990–2021.
  • 75% of human infections started with an animal-borne disease.

14 animals that are surprisingly legal to own as pets in the U.S.

Niles Police Department post about snake found in the area

Celebrities and their exotic pets

While Michael Jackson's chimp "Bubbles" was a novelty back in the day, things have changed drastically in the years since. These days, celebrities are quite comfortable sharing their choice of exotic pet - ranging from pot-bellied pigs to pythons. Perhaps it is this trend by those in the spotlight to choose the more unique species of animals as pets that has fuelled the desire for lions and tigers and snakes - oh, my! - by regular folks. Just some of the famous names that have unusual pets in their homes include:

  • Nicholas Page - An octopus and two cobras
  • Arnold Swartzenneggar - Pet donkeys who live inside his home
  • Reese Witherspoon - Two miniature donkeys
  • Megan Fox - A pot-bellied pig
  • Kirstie Alley - Several lemurs
  • Leonardo DiCaprio - A Sulcata tortoise

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The 'Tiger King Effect'

Netflix's hit series "The Tiger King" certainly factored into the interest in exotic animals, particularly those in the feline family. The show - that profiled the ongoing saga of "Tiger King" Joe Exotic and his nemesis, Carol Baskin, shone a spotlight on the reality of making a living owning animals that were once only seen in the wild - or in a very well-enclosed area in a zoo. So popular was the original program that it's back with a follow-up - "Tiger King 2." This certainly won't help with the fascination with big cats and other exotic pets. If anything, one can assume that interest in unconventional and non-domestic animals as pets will grow.

Case in point: according to data gathered from Google's Keyword Planner, the second-most sought-after pet in the United States, after dogs, is the Axolotl. These creatures are a species of salamander and is native to lakes and canals in Xochimilco, Mexico. Though illegal in some places, including California and New Jersey to name a couple, they are allowed in a majority of states. As the bar for having the most exotic pet in the neighborhood is raised, so too are the Google searches for answers. To this end, it's not surprising as well that Americans are conducting searches on snakes (clearly), as well as bearded dragons and turtles.

While Rover and Spot will continue to be man and woman's best friends, based on the data, there's likely a new spot in the home for a cold-blooded companion...or two.

VIDEO: Cutest exotic animals you can actually own as pets

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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."


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