A Manitoba woman has an unusual new pet after a South African scorpion hitched a ride home in her luggage when she returned from a vacation.
Theresa Arnott noticed her stowaway — which she has since named Harold — on Monday, shortly after coming back from her Christmas visit to see family in South Africa.
"I went upstairs to clean the bathroom. I picked up my wicker basket next to the tub and lo and behold, there was this little black scorpion," Arnott said.
"At first I couldn't quite believe it, then I realized the little critter must have snuck into my suitcase."
Arnott, who lives in Stonewall, figures the scorpion was hiding in her clothes and it must have fallen out without her noticing it.
"What if I had stuck my hand in there and didn't see it and it stung me?" she said. "Thank goodness that didn't happen."
Arnott is thinking of contacting the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg to see if it would like to adopt Harold, which was named after Herolds Bay, the area in South Africa she was visiting.
In the meantime, she has made Harold a makeshift terrarium to live in and is planning to buy a cricket for her pet to eat.
'Canada being the land of peace and opportunity, I thought I'd give him a fighting chance.' - Theresa Arnott
"It's probably about 10 to 12 centimetres in length and about 10 centimetres wide," she said. "So it could probably fit in the palm of my hand."
Arnott is no stranger to scorpions: "We encounter them quite frequently in South Africa. They're nocturnal animals. So if you have to get up to use the bathroom at night, it's advisable to take a flashlight so you don't step on one," she said.
"The bigger the claws and the smaller the stinger, the less likely they are to be poisonous," she added.
"If they sting you, it's going to hurt — probably similar to a wasp sting — and it will be sore and painful for quite a number of days. But unless you are allergic, it's probably not going to be life-threatening."
Scorpion hitchhiker unusual
Jeff McFarlane, who owns Aardvark Pets in Winnipeg, says Arnott's case is the first he's heard of a scorpion hitchhiking in someone's luggage.
However, he noted that exotic critters have made their way to Manitoba in other ways.
"A lot of times we'll get large tropical plants that will have things like tarantulas or eggs for small lizards, anoles or house geckos," he said.
McFarlane said Harold is most likely an emperor scorpion, with a sting not much worse than a bee's sting.
Arnott admits that if she had been in South Africa, she probably wouldn't have hesitated to kill Harold with the sole of her shoe.
"But, you know, it made it all the way here," she said.
"So I thought, 'What a little trooper.' And Canada being the land of peace and opportunity, I thought I'd give him a fighting chance."