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Rock County Humane Society rescues rattlesnake

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 5, 2008
— The Rock County Humane Society often gets reports of rattlesnakes—5-foot-long things—from rattled residents.

But the reports usually are exaggerated and the reptiles are just small fox snakes or even ball pythons.


But a western diamondback rattlesnake curled up at the shelter Friday morning, the first time a rattlesnake—or a venomous snake of any kind—has been a resident there.


A Beloit landlord found the abandoned snake in a home in the 600 block of Bluff Street, said Jim Hurley, supervisor at the humane society.


“Once the driver brought it back here, I looked at it and thought the pattern looked like a rattlesnake,” Hurley said.


“I was a little more scared.”


And that’s from a snake guy who’s fascinated by the reptiles.


“We’ve never seen a rattlesnake,” Hurley said. “We’re not trained to handle venomous snakes.”


The snake is more than a foot long and maybe three-quarters-of-an-inch wide at its thickest part.


It had been kept in a 10-gallon aquarium with sticks, stones and leaves and a duct-taped Plexiglas top.


Police told shelter staff that the Beloit renter or a friend apparently picked up the western diamondback—indigenous to the Southwest—in Arizona and brought it back as a pet. The renters moved to Illinois when they no longer could afford the apartment and left the snake behind.


Hurley had to remove the sticks to see the rattles, a sure sign of a rattlesnake. He did that “very carefully” with a pair of tongs.


And he is fairly sure the snake is a western diamondback, although seeing the difference between rattlesnakes can be like trying to tell the difference between off-white paint and cream.


The snake hasn’t been aggressive because Hurley is keeping the reptile cool, making the animal less active.


Now, what to do with it?


Hurley was hoping that the state Department of Natural Resources or federal fish and wildlife people would take it off his hands.


No such luck.


Friday he contacted herpetological societies and other snake groups that in the past have accepted ball pythons and constrictors.


But it may be left up to him to euthanize the snake, and he has no idea how to do that safely.


“I’ve dealt with Rottweilers and pit bulls and Dobermans and Saint Bernards … But you’re not going to die from getting bit. This, you get bit, you need to go to the hospital.”


Meanwhile, Elizabeth Krueger, Beloit assistant city attorney, said the city is investigating whether charges can be filed against the snake’s owner—if police can locate him or her.


The owner may have violated ordinances against keeping dangerous animals and abandoning animals.


“If it was just a regular constrictor, it probably would not be that big of an issue,” Hurley said.


“Once it’s a venomous snake, this is like leaving a loaded gun in your apartment.”



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