Burmese bellyache: The snake that swallowed a blanket

Brian Holmes revisits a snake that ate an electric blanket.

The Wood River Valley is known to be a decent spot for celebrity sightings. But about a decade ago it also became known as the home to a celebrity snake, who made shocking headlines across the globe for what he happened to eat by mistake.
 
The St. Francis Pet Clinic has been in Ketchum since the 1980s. Run by Dr. Karsten Fostvedt, the veterinarian has seen almost all the Wood River Valley has to offer when it comes to pets.
 
Dr. Fostvedt says 70 percent of his practice is devoted to dogs, another 29 percent is consumed by cats. 
 
"And 1 percent for things like chinchillas and parrots and anything else that comes in," said Dr. Fostvedt.
 
One of those 1-percenters is Karl Beznoska.
 
"I skied with the Kennedy family every Christmas," recalled Beznoska.
 
"That's Bobby Kennedy," he said, pointing to a picture of him and the former senator taken in the mid-60s.
 
A former Sun Valley ski instructor in the '60s and '70s, Beznoska has seen his share of celebrities, having taken pictures with the likes of John Wayne and Flip Wilson on Dollar Mountain.
 
But for the last decade he has shared his home with a somewhat celebrity - Houdini, his 13-foot, 65-pound Burmese python, whom he bought in Boise way back in 1990.
 
Houdini, who is now blind, came to be known around the world 10 summers ago.
 
"Calgary, Jackson Hole, Casper, Columbus Dispatch, Indianapolis," said the 81-year-old, reading names of media outlets who called him 10 years ago. Places like Australia, Africa, and Germany who all who wanted a piece of this python's story.
 
"And I was one the phone for several days," said Beznoska. "Because of why he swallowed the electric blanket. Yeah, I mean, it's not like he swallowed a kid."
 
That's right, Houdini, while eating his monthly meal of rabbit, swallowed the electric blanket that was used to keep the cold-blooded animal warm.
 
"It was at night when I fed him and the next morning," remembered Beznoska. "And I looked, and I can't find that blanket anymore in there."
 
So Beznoska called his vet.
 
"He goes, 'I promise you, I fed the rabbit on the blanket, the rabbit's gone and the blanket's gone. I don't know where they are,'" said Dr. Fostvedt.
 
A series of X-rays later was all the doubtful doctor needed.
 
"And lo and behold, all I saw was all these electric wires inside this snake," he recalled. "And I said, 'Where do I go from here?'"
 
Well, Dr. Fostvedt went to the phone and called a snake specialist in California who talked him through a two-and-a-half hour surgery to remove the queen-sized blanket from the king-sized snake. It's a procedure the good doctor had never done.
 
"Never. And I will probably never do it again rest of my life."
 
Houdini was stitched up and sent home but the news agencies kept calling.
 
"It was like we were besieged for at least the next three days to talk about this stupid snake that swallowed this blanket," said Dr. Fostvedt with a smile.
 
Dr. Fostvedt wasn't sure the "stupid snake" would survive the week but Houdini, now nearly 30 years old has outlived his life expectancy by a decade.
 
It seems Houdini has stretched his 15 minutes of fame to 10 extra years of life, and a few extra dinners, which
Houdini is now due, since he hasn't been able to digest in several months due to digestive issues.
 
"We'll see, I'll try tomorrow again," said Beznoska. "But no more electric blankets!"

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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