You've heard of dog rescuers, cat rescuers, even fish and marine life. But snakes? Well, most of you reptile enthusiasts know it to be true and so does Jody, a Northern California resident who's a former member of a team that performs snake rescues for the Wildlife Center in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.
But don't call him merely a snake rescuer. He's also a snake chaser! In fact, he finds more in the thrill of the chase then he does in the actual rescue. While he's kept many over the years, he still enjoys learning about them, looking at them, and holding them in his hands more than he does bringing them to his home.
Jody's had plenty of adventures and he likes to feature them on his blog, NMHerps. We also had the opportunity to chat him up for a special featured Q&A below. Let's hear what Jody has to say about his latest escapades.
How was the Santa Rosa Wilderness in the Colorado Desert? What kind of reptiles did you see there?
Palm Desert was a total bust. It was basically winter there last weekend [Editors Note: Jody went there in last month.] Night temps were in the 40s (F) with winds hitting 50 mph. I saw one Chuckwalla, a few Sceloporus and a Fringe-toed lizard. I got skunked on the snakes.
What is it about reptiles that appeals to you?
That's hard to say, but the very first time I saw one, when I was 8, I caught it, an Eastern garter snake. I've caught almost every snake I've encountered since, if it didn't manage to get away from me first. More than a few have.
You used to be part of a team that performs snake rescues for the Wildlife Center in New Mexico. What was that experience like?
The most fun being on the rescue team was getting to hang out with some of the other members. They were real pros at snake capture,
handling, and rehabilitation. Some of them kept very exotic species: Black mambas, Gaboon vipers, Eyelash vipers, and Puff adders to name a few.
Any interesting stories from rescue operations?
I once had to remove a kind of rabbit-proof garden netting from a Prairie rattlesnake's neck. It was a slightly dicey operation, but
completed successfully. Most of the calls for rattlesnakes turned out to be Gopher snakes, but there were plenty of rattlesnakes to deal
with as well.
There was one call where someone was convinced there were 3 rattlesnakes in her house. She said she'd psychically communicated
with the snakes and asked them to leave. I'm not sure what the snakes' answers were, but I couldn't find any in the house. What I did find
was a garage full of bird seed, with rodent droppings *everywhere*. So, while I may not have been on board with the idea of her
communicating with the snakes, there were plenty of reasons for the snakes to be hanging around.
Do you have any snakes/reptiles of your own? What kind of thrill do you get from finding them? Would you rather be a snake owner or a snake follower? (If you had to choose)
I'm a snake chaser more than keeper, although I've kept many snakes over the years. My favorite was a ground-dwelling Caribbean dwarf boa,
Tropidophis haetianus. It would spend all day stalking geckos in the tank and was a joy to handle. My last snake was a Sonoran mountain
kingsnake. I'd keep a California mountain kingsnake if I could find one. I live within their range, but I've only found road kill Lampropeltis zonata so far.
I once owned a species of South African egg-eating snake, but it didn't seem to like eggs. I've had a few boa constrictors, and many species of Thamnophis (garter snake), some captured while pregnant. My mother "loved" it when the snake tank was suddenly overflowing with 50+ wee snakes.
I was very inspired by the late Steve Irwin's show, The Crocodile Hunter, which I was watching religiously before he became popular here
in the States. In 1997, for Halloween, I made a Steve Irwin costume and took my boa and egg-eating snake to work. The boa did fine, the egg-eating snake vented in my chest pocket. It ran all the way down to my waist. Yuck.
What words of wisdom would you offer to beginners?
Snake chasing is very exciting after the quarry has been spotted, not so much until then. You've got to keep your senses sharp and listen just as much as you look. You must never put your hands where you haven't looked first, especially where venomous species reside. Where
you look is very important. Being close to water and to rodent habitat can be really helpful. I pretty much lift up every board and log I
encounter in my life, always being sure to put them back the way I found them. Much of the time you have to be ready to dive for the
catch. I've jumped into water many times to make a capture. Don't attempt to capture a venomous snake until you've been trained by
someone with venomous snake experience. And please don't hurt the things, venomous or not.