Two young boys sleeping at a friend’s apartment above an exotic pet store in northern New Brunswick are dead after they were strangled by a python that had escaped its enclosure, RCMP confirmed on Monday.

Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the boys, ages 5 and 7, were found dead shortly after 6:30 a.m. in an apartment above Reptile Ocean Inc. in Campbellton, N.B.

"(The snake) had escaped its enclosure at the store sometime through the night, got into the ventilation system and into the upstairs apartment," Rogers-Marsh told The Canadian Press.

The snake, a 15-foot African rock python, fell through the roof of the apartment and strangled the two brothers, reports CTV Atlantic’s Todd Battis.

The owner of the apartment – who also owns the exotic pet store and snake – told CTV Atlantic that he’s had the snake since 2001.

He admits the snake, which has since been captured by the RCMP, is a dangerous animal that was rarely handled.

According to snake expert Paul “Little Ray” Goulet who owns Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, deaths by snake constriction are "critically rare."

"Try to find the last time a snake has constricted and killed a person in captivity in North America. It’s been years," Goulet told

But despite the extreme rarity of fatal incidents, Goulet stressed that people should not keep giant snakes as pets.

"I do not condone people keeping giant snakes as pets because they are large, very powerful animals, especially if you have children."

He added that the snake would not have attacked the brothers in self-defence -- it would have been hunting.

"Snakes do not constrict for self-defense. Snakes only constrict for food," he said.

Community in shock

News of the tragic deaths on Monday shocked the New Brunswick community.

"Some still don’t believe it,” said deputy mayor Ian Comeau, who toured the pet store with the local fire department two years ago.

"(Firefighters had to) know where these animals were – alligators, crocodiles and snakes."

Comeau said Reptile Ocean was licensed to operate and did not violate any bylaws and provincial guidelines.

The brothers’ deaths also prompted many people to post angry remarks on the store’s Facebook page, which was temporarily shut down Monday evening after a flood of accusatory comments.

“You should be dumped in a jail cell with other criminals,” reads one post.

Before the page was taken down, the page’s administrator -- who admitted to not being the store owner, but “someone who helps them out with page” -- wrote: “deepest sympathies out to the family of the children. A terrible accident without meaning.”

The unidentified administrator also defended the store, explaining that the page will be shut down to “avoid any further demeaning comments. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Autopsies will be performed on the two boys on Tuesday in Saint John.

No charges have been laid.

With a report from CTV's Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis