A horrific find in California as China's Year of the Snake draws to a close: Santa Ana police discovered hundreds of dead and dying snakes in the home of a teacher who moonlighted as a snake breeder, reports the Los Angeles Times. The 53-year-old man was arrested on charges of animal cruelty after police removed box after box of snakes, some just bones, from his home. Inside, cops found rodents eating each other amid a stench so strong it sickened officers standing hundreds of feet away. "House of Horrors: That's the best way to describe it," the supervisor for the Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services Division told the AP after emerging from the five-bedroom home.
The homeowner—described by neighbors as a "regular guy" who became reclusive after the death of his mother—was known as a ball python breeder who had been using a process called "morphing" to achieve different patterns on the snakes. "He seemed normal but creepy," one of his former students tells the OC Register. "He used to have (snakes) in his classroom and it freaked everybody out." Animal welfare groups hope to restore the 180 or so live pythons found in the home to health and place them in schools or nature centers. At least 280 others were dead, some of them just bones.