Five of the brown DeKay's snakes—sometimes called earth snakes—have been found in the Hinds County circuit clerk's basement office since April 8.
A deputy clerk, Kelly Phillips, said Thursday that the largest was a big around as her finger and a few inches long. She didn't stop to measure it. She said the smallest looked like an overgrown earthworm.
Former zookeeper Percy King, who does reptile shows at local schools, went to the courthouse to identify the serpents. He said DeKay's snakes, which eat lizards, worms, crickets and other small bugs, have soft teeth that probably couldn't even break a human's skin.
It's not unusual for DeKay's snakes to sneak into buildings during the springtime as they wake up from hibernation, he said: "A snake that size could squeeze through any little hole."
The Art Deco-style courthouse in downtown Jackson was built in 1930 and is topped by a statue of Moses with the Ten Commandments. The basement has windows, but Phillips said they're tightly sealed.
Phillips said the first time she saw a snake in the office, her brain didn't immediately register what it was.
"It was trucking across the floor," she said, pointing in a diagonal toward rows of heavy rolling cabinets where paper files are stored.
She said she screamed "Snake!" and several co-workers scattered. One picked it up with a paper clamp and took it outside.
One of the snakes was accidentally killed by a file cabinet that rolls on tracks. Another was caught on a sticky trap left by maintenance workers.