There has been another twist in a rather serpentine story in Toronto.
Members of the Sannella family thought they were finally reunited with Monty, an 11-month-old ball python supposedly found in a sewer grate in the city's east end on Tuesday after it went missing in June.
But once they returned home from picking the snake up at animal services, they discovered a slippery truth.
"So now we have the impostor snake at the house — that we've nicknamed Sneaky Pete — and I'm not sure what to do with him," said Samantha Sannella, whose 18-year-old son purchased Monty last November.
Monty has been missing since the night the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship on June 13, Sannella said.
The family celebrated on Tuesday, when a snake was spotted near a gas station about three kilometres from their home.
The snake seemed happy to be home, but Sannella's son noticed some unusual behaviour.
It lifted up a hollow log in the aquarium — something he had never seen Monty do before.
So he examined some old photos of Monty and quickly realized the unique patterns on the head of the snake in its terrarium didn't match those on Monty.
Sannella said she was "a little bit scared last night" because Sneaky Pete seems "quite a bit stronger" than Monty.
She put books on top of his terrarium overnight to keep the snake from slithering out in the night.
"The other thought was, 'What if this is a female snake and Monty comes back, and all of the sudden I'm a snake breeder?'"
This means someone else must be missing their pet python too, Sannella said.
She was hopeful after seeing a man post about his missing python on Facebook. But they emailed and realized his snake's skin patterns didn't match either.
"How many pythons are loose in the sewers of Toronto?" Sannella mused. "There's a lot, obviously."
In the meantime, the family gave Sneaky Pete a bath and the snake seems "extremely happy" in its new, nicely heated new home.
She created a Facebook page called Missing Pythons of Toronto in hopes of finding the imposter's true owner.
Monty escaped when Sannella's son had friends over to watch the NBA Finals.
During the party, Sannella suspects, the lid of Monty's container was accidentally left open and the snake slipped into a nearby sewer grate, but she said "there's no way of knowing" exactly what happened.
Sannella said the ordeal has made her reconsider keeping a snake in the house.
"I didn't actually ever want a snake, but my son really wanted a spider and I said no," she said. He suggested a snake — and Sannella said sure, "but if it ever escapes, you'll be in big trouble."
Ball pythons typically grow to be about 1.2 metres in length and are non-venomous constrictors.
They can go without food for several months, according to ball python enthusiast websites.
According to the city, Toronto Animal Services has picked up 28 stray snakes since Jan. 1, 2017. Another five have been surrendered by their owners.
Fiona Venedam, manager of enforcement and mobile response for Toronto Animal Services, says snakes are excellent escape artists.
Any terrarium should have a secure lid with a latch. Proper lighting, heating, bedding and hiding places are needed to make pet snakes feel at home, she added.