The snake rescuer

Yesterday morning I was sitting at conference table, downing coffee to keep my eyes open, when I heard someone say that it's springtime now and the snakes are waking up. Well, those kinds of statements at the breakfast table do have a way of getting my attention.

I turned sideways and realized the words were coming from a high school science teacher, that I know, from Arizona.

"Snakes hibernate?"

"Sure," she said, "and people who move here in the winter time are pretty surprised when a snake wakes up and crawls out from under their porch."

A few other questions and everyone at the table found out that she knew quite a lot about snakes. In fact, she rescues snakes - usually rattlesnakes.

People find a rattlesnake at their house, they call the snake rescue group, and she drives out to their house and rescues the snake. Sometimes she has to give the snakes a drink of water or soak them in water a bit, if the snake is dehydrated. Sometimes she can immediately take the snake somewhere else. She said that snakes have a hard time surviving, though, if they get moved more than a mile away from their home. Rattlesnakes are very territorial and they can be killed by another snake if they enter the wrong territory.

She also educates homeowners about snakes. If they have a gopher snake or a king snake, for example, she encourages the homeowners to keep the snake, since the king and gopher snakes keep the rattlers out of the territory. She also said that young snakes are the most dangerous since they're more likely to lose their heads and bite.

We were all entertained by her amazing tales of snakes in her house and the large athletic guys that would call for help only to stare in amazement when a young woman came to their rescue.

Got a snake? Call the snake rescuers.

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I adore this woman. What a fantastic story. I'm in the habit of rescuing snakes and spiders (not to mention lizards and frogs and a variety of other critters) around my own home (and yes, I've had a snake in the house - just a gopher snake, though, not a rattler). It is really great to hear about others who not only have respect for these creatures, but are helping to educate people as to they're so wonderful and important (and worth saving; not just killing with a shovel, or whatever it is that most people do).

I must admit I'd be intimidated by the idea of handling a rattlesnake, though. Might be worth doing some research to see how that is best done. I do live in an area where they're fairly common (although I've never seen one in northern California myself; my neighbor says he has them in his yard regularly, though).

Living in rural NJ I get very upset when I hear neighbours kids say stuff like "We found a snake in the backyard, but it's okay - my dad killed it!"

Pretty much all the snakes around here are harmless garter snakes. Grrrr! Actually the non-harmless ones are protected so killing any snake here is either a waste of effort or illegal.

By NoAstronomer (not verified) on 01 May 2008 #permalink

I'm envious. I wish we had a nearby snake rescuer.

When I was a little girl, we had snakes everywhere, including various poisonous ones. My father taught me that the rattlesnake was the "good" poisonous snake because he is a gentleman: he gives fair warning and doesn't attack if the person moves slowly away. And of course, the non-poisonous ones were always welcome.

There aren't so many snakes around the house now as most of the nearby woods have been developed. But I must admit, even today I still have problems with the copperheads and cotton mouths that give no warning and then come at me if I get too close instead of waiting for me to move away.

My thesis advisor tells of doing field work (while a postdoc) in the Rockies one summer. His usual schedule was to be in the field at dawn, and quit about 3 pm, go back to camp, write up his notes and plan the next day's work. But Important Prestigious Researcher came out on a visit one day, and insisted they work on his schedule: into the field at noon, stumble back to camp when it was too dark to continue working. When they went to return to camp, every rock had a rattlesnake on it! In the cool of the evening, the snakes had come out to soak up heat from the rocks. My advisor says it was one of the most terrifying hikes he's ever taken, and was delighted to see the last of the IPR the next morning.

I must admit I'd be intimidated by the idea of handling a rattlesnake, though. Might be worth doing some research to see how that is best done.

Tongs, 4-ft stick with a hook on the end, and/or a solid plastic bucket with a trusworthy lid.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 01 May 2008 #permalink

At age four, I stepped on a rattlesnake who bit me on the right ankle. Fang marks 3/4 in apart. I was the one in five four-year olds bitten by a rattlesnake who survived. I won't handle a rattlesnake bare handed; need a snake stick.

Friend and I were out in a pasture near Lubbock, TX, flying free flight model airplanes. Saw a dust storm coming in and misjudged it a little. We carried all our stuff about 150 yards to the car with visibility about 25 feet. Saw maybe 15 rattlesnakes on the move. We had flown and chased airplanes for a couple of hours and not seen a snake. That was a spooky experience.

Ny daughter caught a gartersnake for a pet. She kept it in an aquarium and fed it earthworms from the compost pile. She came in one day and had 14 garter snakes. We got tired of digging worms for them and took them out to the compost pile and turned them loose.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 01 May 2008 #permalink

There was an article in this morning's fish wrapper about a fellow who travels around giving avoidance training to pet dogs. Every dog I ever have had has avoided snakes of all types with a passion but I guess some just want to be friends. With a rattlesnake that can be a problem! I had one dog who, when she got up in years, began to loose her sight. She wouldn't go near a hose on the ground for fear it just might be a snake.

By David Lockwood (not verified) on 01 May 2008 #permalink

While doing my master's we would often get calls from people with snakes in the yard or the house. I am amused by how big a snake can grow in someone's imagination - we would go out prepared for a 6-foot python and find a 6-inch garter snake instead!

Nice to meet my counterpart in Arizona. I do rescue and rehabilitation work pretty much exclusively with venomous snakes, though I won't turn away either nonvenomous or exotics. This weekend I'll be releasing a lovely pink canebrake rattlesnake that has quite successfully recovered from surgery after being struck by a car about six months ago.

Wonderful! We didn't see much of snakes in town when I was growing up, but did encounter (harmless) garter snakes in the fields. Never did see a rattler although there had once been Massassauga rattlers in the vicinity. At my grandfather's house in the country we would walk in front of the lawnmower because the snakes were either not scared by it or confused as to the source and would get cut up, but they would move out of the way of feet.

Once we found a lovely little firebellied snake only about six inches long.

John Thomerson

Hey Where was the area where you daughter came in with 14 garter snakes? I am in need of finding some garter snakes, I love those things and I wanna make a terrarium and get some critters together. Any information would be awesome! Thank you.

Chris Mohler

By Chris Mohler (not verified) on 29 Sep 2008 #permalink