CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Christine Abdelmonem wanted her 15-month-old son to get a better look at the ducks waddling nearby in Freedom Park, so she lowered him to the ground.
Before Adam's feet touched the grass, she felt a sharp tug.
Wrapped around her son's leg was a ball python.
She could see the snake, at least 4 feet long, biting Adam on the leg. Without thinking, she yanked the snake away and screamed for help.
Two maintenance workers rushed over. One tried to kill the snake with a shovel, but ended up trapping it in a bucket, said Karla Thornhill of Mecklenburg Park and Recreation.
Adam was taken to Carolinas Medical Center. He was fine Tuesday, a day after the attack, walking around the southeast Charlotte apartment where he lives with his mom and dad.
He has a small bite mark on his leg, but the bite of a ball python isn't poisonous.
Abdelmonem remembers crying when paramedics asked her about the snake.
"I didn't know they bit and I didn't know if they were poisonous," she said. "I felt like a bad mother."
She had brought Adam to Freedom Park in south Charlotte for a picnic. They were sitting under an oak tree at the lake's edge when they saw the ducks. Adam had just learned how to say "quack, quack," so she wanted him to get a better look.
"I've been there all my life," she said, "and I've never seen a snake there."
Thornhill, of the park department, said she could not recall another incident where a snake bit a person at Freedom Park, although she said nonpoisonous black snakes have been seen there.
The Charlotte Nature Museum confirmed the snake was a ball python, Thornhill said. Carnivorous snakes native to Africa, they curl into a ball when threatened and kill their prey — including rats and young chickens — by constricting it.
John Calchera, owner of Pineville Pets, took in the snake. He thinks it may have been abandoned by a pet owner. He said he doesn't think the snake will survive being beaten by the shovel.
"It's a totally harmless thing," he said. "Why attack a harmless thing?"
Looking at Adam toddling happily around the apartment, it's hard to believe anything happened, his mother said. He cried while the snake was on him, but recovered surprisingly fast.
"When I pulled it off, he was fine," she said. "I wasn't."
ABOUT BALL PYTHONS
Found near water in open forests and savannas of Africa.
Females can reach up to 6 feet long.
Generally well-mannered and curl into a ball if threatened.
Constricts its food, which includes rats and young chickens.
Ball pythons are legal as pets in Mecklenburg County, as are any non-venomous snakes under 50 pounds. Animal advocates caution that some exotic pets, while cute when young, can become difficult and time-consuming to care for as they grow.
Source: The Discovery Channel, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Control
(c) 2007, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).
Visit The Charlotte Observer on the World Wide Web at http://www.charlotte.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.