Students at Mildred Hall School came back to an unwelcome surprise after the long weekend – their class pet snake Sophie had been stolen.

The female python, 19-years old and four feet long, was taken from her cage sometime during the long weekend. Grade 7/8 teacher Kim Black said she fears the snake is not receiving proper care, as she was supposed to be fed this week and has a very specific feeding routine.

“A lot of snakes will eat frozen mice,” she said. “But she will not eat them, she has to eat live mice otherwise she won’t eat and she actually hasn’t eaten for a while now.”

Black said Sophie must also be placed into a small enclosed space when she is fed to lower her stress and make it easier to catch the mouse, because of her age. The snake normally eats every two months, she hasn’t been fed for three months.

“The snake is probably going to die if it’s not looked after,” said Mildred Hall principal Katey Simmons.

Black said the snake can be returned to Mildred Hall or the Yellowknife Education District No.1 (Yk1) office in a small container through which the snake can breathe.

Mildred Hall student Corwin Simmons with Sophie, a pet python that was stolen from the Grade 7/8 classroom over the weekend. Principal Katey Simmons said while students have handled Sophie without any danger to themselves, there is no way to know how a wild animal in a stressful situation will react. Photo courtesy of Katey Simmons.

Sophie has been a resident of the Mildred Hall Grade 7/8 classroom this year and a focus of the inquiry-based science classes Black teaches. While Simmons said students have held and touched Sophie without danger, she is a wild animal and could react if stressed.

The last time Black saw the snake was last Thursday. The school was closed for four days over the long weekend and when students returned on Tuesday, Sophie was gone.

Black said she knows the snake was stolen, as the terrarium she lives in cannot be opened from inside and the lid was securely fastened when she returned on Tuesday. Snakeskin was also found on the outside of the cage, as Sophie is in the process of shedding.

Katey Simmons said a male teenager broke into the school two weeks ago. The teenager was caught by a security guard and it appeared he had been inside the classroom where the snake’s cage is. Simmons said she thinks the same individual could have returned and took the snake.

She said the school hasn’t reported the theft to the police, as she doesn’t think it would do much to bring Sophie back.

Yk1 superintendent Metro Huculak said Mildred Hall has experienced two break-ins since January. He said they are uncommon in Yellowknife schools and thinks the two at Mildred Hall were most likely pranks as nothing was stolen before Sophie was taken.

Simmons said security cameras are in the process of being installed on the outside of the school, which will cost $38,325. The installation should be ready within the next few weeks. The school also has an alarm system and a security guard who patrols all Yk1 schools.

The installation of security cameras at Mildred Hall is part of a larger upgrade that will see security cameras installed on the outside of all Yk1 schools, according to Huculak, who added the district will have these in place by the end of the summer.

Currently only Sir John Franklin High School has security cameras, both outside and inside the school.