By Nick Rizzi
STATEN ISLAND —The 4-foot snake discovered Wednesday in a Staten Island toilet has a new name — and temporary new digs.
The California King snake with chocolate-brown stripes has been nicknamed "Hershey" and is in the care of a reptile expert who treated the slithering critter immediately after it was plucked from the bowl.
"It was cold, but in good general health," said Keith Kafader, who has worked with reptiles for 14 years.
Hershey was first spotted Wednesday in the Graniteville toilet of Allan Shepard, who discovered the uninvited guest as he was using his bathroom.
Shepard initially attempted to snatch the snake with a broom, but the reptile snapped at the stick. The building’s superintendent enlisted plumber Kenneth Rosenthal, who was able to gently pull Hershey from the bowl and place it in a cooler.
“I went to look and get an idea at what type of snake it was,” Kafader said. When he opened up the cooler and saw Hershey, he knew it was OK.
“The threat level was non existent," Kafader said. "I waited a few seconds and cautiously picked it up."
Snakes need external heat, Kafader said, and the warmth from his hands did the trick. Hershey quickly calmed down.
"If you corner any animal it’s going to attack," Kafader said.
Hershey, who is about 3 to 4 years old, did not move much as he was handled Thursday. Kafader said he's unsure of the snake’s gender, and he didn’t want to put more stress on Hershey by checking.
Kafader said he can't explain how the snake wound up in the pipes of the Bridgeview apartments, but he suspects it's a pet because it was comfortable being handled. Bridgeview residents are allowed to keep pets, including reptiles, but super Karen Genco said nobody reported losing one.
California King snakes are non-venomous and generally tame, according to Anthony Pilny, a veterinarian at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine on the Upper West Side.
He said he's worked with all types of animals over 14 years, including crocodiles and prairie dogs.
Kafader said he realizes some people might shriek at the thought of owning a snake, but when cared for and handled correctly, California Kings can make great pets.
“I’ve worked with everything under the sun," he said. "I always say it's like living art."