Milky’s Mad Dash: Snake Breaks Free at Friends Select


Biology teacher Perry Zanki, Friends Select’s king of crazy stories and unexpected antics, may have finally outdone himself: this fall, his pet snake “Milky” escaped from his classroom and evaded capture around the school building for more than two weeks.

Perry, an avid collector of all things natural, first found Milky while doing work on his back patio. He recalls that he and the snake shared an instantaneous connection: “Milky was making a bee-line to the door like he wanted to come in. I brought it to school [and] kept it in a fishbowl,” he says.

Through an independent investigation, Perry determined that Milky is an Eastern Milk Snake, belonging to the species triangulum of genus Lampropeltus.

Although nobody saw Milky’s great escape, Perry suspects that Milky’s getaway was enabled by a weak elastic band holding a breathable plastic wrap cover on top of the fishbowl. Although Perry tried his best to secure Milky’s habitat, he now realizes that “the elastic band was no match for this snake.” Perry then emailed Upper School Director Chris Singler to inform him of the loose serpent. Chris was surprised but not worried — he’d dealt with a runaway snake during his time at Germantown Friends School.

Milky traversed the school unseen for more than two weeks before Middle School Director Desiree Harmon reported a snake sighting in a middle school classroom. Perry quickly went into ranger mode, but Milky was nowhere to be found. However, Perry acted on a hunch and used his mechanical skills to investigate: “because it had retired back into the room’s heater/AC unit and we could not get it out, we figured we could take the unit apart a little more in the morning,” he says. “Unfortunately, after taking a few shields off of the unit, the snake could not be found.”

In another incident just days later, Milky surfaced in a 5th-grade classroom underneath an HVAC unit. Amidst the commotion of an excited middle school classroom, teachers Dan Capecchi and Jason Dortch got on the floor to look for the snake but found nothing. They returned again the following morning and even called in an HVAC specialist to take a closer look, but Milky had made a clean escape.

It took a couple of days for another human to spot Milky, when another teacher captured the snake in Chris’ office. She then brought the snake to Des, who provided a comfortable container to hold Milky for a short period of time. Des and her husband, who are both experienced snake handlers, offered to keep Milky at “Hotel Harmon,” a term she gave to the habitat she provided for the snake at her house.

“My husband and I have a dozen ball pythons at home, and we breed rats to feed the snakes, so I knew that we could care for the snake,” says Des. “We had plenty of extra bedding for the tank, a heat lamp, and faux brush, and a bowl for water. I talked with Tr. Perry, who made arrangements to come to our house to pick up the snake.”

Now, Milky once again resides at Perry’s home, but another move may be in short order: Perry recently told his 11th grade biology students that it is time for Milky to return to the wild. Due to seasonal changes in sunlight, Milky’s “endocrine system is probably telling itself to slow down and perhaps get ready for its winter nap,” says Perry. Days from now, Milky will return to the Wissahickon, where he lived just months ago. Although Perry will be sad to part with his serpentine friend, he says that letting Milky slither free is the “Quaker thing to do.”