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Seward snake 'resting comfortably' after surgery to remove ceramic egg

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A ceramic egg was surgically removed from a 5-foot black rat snake that mistook it for the real thing and swallowed it in a chicken coop in Seward.
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 10:45 p.m.

The black rat snake that mistook a ceramic egg in a Seward chicken coop for the real thing and swallowed it is recovering from surgery.

Veterinarian Robert Wagner removed the egg, used to coax chickens to nest, from the 5-foot snake on Tuesday. It is expected to be released back into the wild after a regimen of antibiotics.

“They'll eat anything — blankets, light bulbs,” said Wagner, the chief of surgical veterinary services at the University of Pittsburgh, who oversees the surgical research program and the aquatics program there.

The ceramic egg wasn't the most unusual foreign body Wagner's removed from a snake, but it was his first fake egg, he said. He recently removed a set of 18-inch forceps from a boa.

“They used the forceps to hold the rat (its meal), and it took the whole thing,” said Wagner, who has worked at the Pittsburgh Zoo, the National Aviary and several wildlife conservation organizations.

On Wednesday, the black rat snake was “resting comfortably” minus the egg, said Jill Argall, director of the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center in Verona, where it was taken Monday.

Black rat snakes are powerful constrictors, meaning they wrap themselves around their prey and squeeze it to death before ingesting it.

The snake was looking for eggs in Al Filat's chicken coop when it found the ceramic version and swallowed it. Filat called his neighbor, Alan Hollingsworth, and told him he found a “snake with a big lump in it.”

Hollingsworth, 54, who volunteers with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission surveying timber rattlesnakes, took the snake to the wildlife center. After an evaluation, Wagner was called in to remove the egg.

“It was pretty wild,” Wagner said. “That egg was overwhelmingly large considering the size of the snake.”

The snake was just following its instincts when it swallowed the egg, Wagner said.

“It looked like an egg, it smelled like an egg,” he said.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or

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