Missing 17-Foot Python Lured Out of Hiding

Baby, the pet python, is safe at home. The 17-foot Burmese python (search), missing since Thursday in Bay St. Louis, came out of hiding Monday when the smell of dinner became too much to resist. Baby loves rabbits and that's what snake owner Keith Berg used as bait.

Baby slithered out from underneath insulation in the attic of Berg's apartment building and back into captivity. The snake was being kept in Berg's bathroom, but escaped when the door was left ajar.

Julie Lawhead lives across the street, and hopes now to get a full night's sleep.

"When I first heard that the snake was missing, my three children were playing in the back yard and my youngest is 2 years old," Lawhead said. "I've even looked under the kids' bed at night. I know that's being paranoid, but you don't always use logic in times like these."

Dan Maloney, general curator at Audubon Zoo (search) in New Orleans, said because the 110-pound python dines on four rabbits a month, she would be an easy target of instant gratification.

"We usually feed our pythons about once or twice a year," Maloney said. "If this animal was fed once a month, then it will probably be looking for food sooner rather than later."

Pythons have an average lifespan of more than 40 years, and Maloney said owning a giant serpent is a lifelong commitment, a decision that should only be made after extensive research.

"The best pets are dogs and cats," Maloney said. "People need to know the housing requirements and conditions, and so many other things, before deciding to own an animal like this."

It is legal to own exotic pets in Mississippi (search), but owners must have a license or permit. Thirteen states have laws that prohibit the private possession of dangerous reptiles.

"She does like to explore, that's for sure," Berg said. "I am just so glad that she's back."

A new cage for Baby is being built in Mobile and Berg said the snake is moving there as soon as it is completed, but in the meantime, he plans to make sure the bathroom door stays shut.