Cleo the snake


Ava Swanson

Cleo emerges from her cave to pose for the camera.

Marie Colunga, Staff Writer

Cleo is a beautiful ball python that lives in room A285 with CTE teacher Chandler Merrel, who has been taking care of Cleo since she first started teaching about three years ago.

“When I was first a new teacher, I was in a biology classroom and she came with the classroom,” Merrel said. “Basically, I took care of her for the couple of years that I was at the previous school, and then when it was time for me to move to Johnson, I asked who she belonged to. No one would take her, so she officially became mine.”

When Merrell’s old school first got Cleo, they thought she was a boy. After taking her to the vet, they found out that she was in fact a girl. After figuring this out, they had a student vote to decide Cleo’s new name. 

“They decided to have five different names that they could choose from,” Merrel said. “Sarah was one and Cleo was one, and they were all kind of snake-based. Cleo was based on Cleopatra, and Sarah kind of sounded like snakes. They basically all voted out of the Agriculture department, and Cleo was kind of the one that stuck.” 

Cleo’s age is unknown, but Merrel believes that she is between seven and eight.  

“It’s kind of a ‘guestimation’ because we don’t know what age she was when they first got her,” Merrel said. 

Having been with Cleo for the past three years of her life, Merrel learned that taking care of snakes is surprisingly not that hard. 

“The good thing about snakes is they’re kind of low maintenance,” Merrel said. “The biggest thing is you have to make sure they always have clean water, but I’ll change out her bedding and her cage properly every couple of weeks or so before or after school.”

Cleo’s diet consists of frozen mice and rats that are given to her depending on how long she is going to go without food, but she is never given a live mouse.

“I’m afraid she will torture a rat or a mouse if I give her a live one, so we get frozen ones and I thaw them out in hot water,” Merrel said. “That is what I usually feed her.”

The snake is a big Harry Styles fan and even has an image of herself draped around Harry Styles’ shoulders. 

“She has become a Harry Styles fan this year,” Merrel said. “I don’t think she ever thought that she would be, but now other super fans have started putting posters of him up in her cage.” 

Because of her time in the classroom, students have learned to be comfortable with Cleo, and some kids have even learned more about snakes than they ever knew. 

“It honestly isn’t bad,” Merrel said. “So far I’ve had nobody really hassle her, and a lot of people really enjoy her. A lot of people don’t really have exposure to a snake. I think it is kind of a good way for people to understand that they’re not all dangerous and that snakes can be kind of nice.”