The people of Grant County in Wisconsin were literally put on alert by their sheriff yesterday.
The initial report was pretty scary. On Sunday evening, the Grant County Sheriff's office took a call from a driver reporting an unexpected and terrifying sight: There, stretched across two lines of highway, was a massive, grey-brown snake.
The giant snake was seen in a town called Dickeyville. This fact we submit without comment.
They don't grow them like that in southwestern Wisconsin. Authorities took this quite seriously, and presumed the coldblooded predator was a python, likely escaped from some exotic pet owner's home.
That kind of carnivore poses a serious threat to people and puppies.
"Please keep an eye on small children and pets while they are outside," the sheriff's office warned. "If the snake is located, please do not attempt to capture the snake and call the police."
Evidently the Grant County deputies think their citizenry, quite brave, assuming members of the public would see a 20-foot long snake and try to just go grab it themselves. The same alert told locals the sheriff's office had "a plan in place to capture the snake." This being Wisconsin, we must assume the plan had something to do with disguising a long chain of bratwurst to make it look like an attractive mate.
As could be predicted, the story spread rapidly, both through social and traditional media, and had fears inflamed for much of yesterday. Until, later Monday, the sheriff's office issued a second message, this one with an attached photo of the prehistoric beast.
And? Nothing to see here, move along.
Turns out someone in Dickeyville was able to snatch a picture of the reptile before it disappeared. An animal expert took a look and determined, first, this was not a python, but a bull snake, relatively common to that area. And second: It's more like 50" to 70" (about four feet to about six feet) in length, not the 20-ish feet it would take to span two highway lanes.
"There is no danger to the general public and if someone spots it, it should be left alone," reads the Grant County Sherriff's message.
This message is only true if "general public" does not include rabbits, which should, as always, run for their lives.