By Nick Rizzi and Mary Johnson
STATEN ISLAND — This wasn't exactly a snake in the grass.
A Staten Island man got the scaly surprise of a lifetime Wednesday morning when he made his daily trip to the bathroom — discovering and then tangling with a 4-foot snake that sought refuge in his toilet bowl.
After Allen Shepard, of Graniteville, answered nature’s call, he spotted something unusual swimming around in the bowl, the building’s superintendent, Karen Genco, said.
“He got up in the morning, did his business and brushed his teeth,” Genco said. “Then he saw something out of the corner of his eye.”
That something was a 4-foot-long California King snake, as first reported by the Staten Island Advance.
At first, Shepard, who could not immediately be reached for comment, attempted to snatch the snake from the bowl with a broom handle, but the reptile began snapping at him, Genco said. So he left the bathroom and waited for Genco to return from taking her son to school.
“He was standing on his porch,” she recalled. “And [he] said, ‘I have a little problem.’”
Genco initially thought Shepard was joking, but when she saw the snake for herself, she called the building’s plumber, Kenneth Rosenthal.
When Rosenthal, the owner of 1-800-Clogged, arrived at the Bridgeview apartments a half hour later, he only saw a small part of the snake sticking out.
“I open the door, and I see the back end of the snake,” Rosenthal said. “I said to [Shepard], ‘You’re scared of that little snake?’”
Rosenthal, a plumber for 20 years, grabbed the snake with a pole and began pulling it out of the toilet.
“I was thinking, ‘When was this thing going to end?’” he recalled.
When he realized how large the snake actually was, he began wrapping the serpent around the pole until it eventually popped out.
“It wasn’t a happy snake,” said Genco, who was watching the scene.
Rosenthal put the snake in a cooler, and another tenant, who Genco said was a reptile expert, agreed to take it to a sanctuary in Manhattan.
California King snakes are non-venomous and generally tame, said Anthony Pilny, a veterinarian at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine on the Upper West Side.
“It’s probably stressed by what’s been going on,” he said. “They are a fairly routine, low-maintenance snake.”
“Most of the time they make really good pets,” Pilny added. “A really nice snake.”
Pilny said that the snake must be somebody’s pet because that species is not typically found in the New York area. Bridgeview residents are allowed to keep pets — including reptiles — in their apartments, but Genco said nobody reported losing one.
“I don’t get how it could have possible gotten in," she said. "It’s weird.”
And even though the snake wasn’t swimming around in her toilet, Genco said the experience has left her a little leery of the restroom.
“I still can’t sit on the toilet,” she said.