Thursday, May 04, 2006
The snake who broke the rulesPeople bring us animals all the time. Of course, that's a natural part shelter life. But some people don't realize that we are a private shelter dedicated to cats and dogs, that we are not allowed take strays, and that we don't have resources for injured wildlife. Those services are provided by animal control, which, in Dublin, happens to be right across the street from us. Even when they are closed, they have night drop boxes, where animals can safely be left overnight.
The police officer who pulled into our parking lot on Wednesday night as I was leaving knew the rules, and had no intention of asking us to take the injured snake he had in his patrol car. All he wanted was an appropriate container to put the snake in so that he could carry it across the street and leave it in a drop box.
It was a small green snake that had gotten tangled in a bit of plastic mesh. It was cold to the touch, it wasn't moving, and the mesh bit deeply into its delicate skin. The snake looked very close to death, and I doubted that it would make it through the night in the drop box. Neither the police officer nor I could think of anywhere else to take him. There are plenty of places to take injured wildlife in the Bay Area, but nothing open after 8 o'clock in the evening.
So I told the officer that I would take the snake home. I knew that it needed warmth and moisture, and I thought that I could provide those things overnight, and then take it to an appropriate wildlife facility in the morning on my day off.
I took the snake inside, and within minutes TF had used the scissors on his pocketknife to free it from the plastic mesh. It was still cold and sluggish, but at least now it was moving a bit and flicking its tongue.
I took the snake home, and set him up in a plastic storage box with a warm, moist washcloth, a shallow dish of water, and a heating pad under one end of the box. The snake revived quickly. He explored his enclosure, took a drink of water, and then curled up in the warmest corner of the box.
I took pictures of him and got online, and within minutes learned that he was a Coluber constrictor, commonly known as a racer, that he was a native snake, and that the best thing to do was to release him back into the wild.
Although the snake didn't appear to be seriously injured, he was scratched and bruised where the mesh had torn his skin, so I wanted to make sure he was well enough to fend for himself. The next morning I took him to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, where they looked him over and pronounced him fit and healthy. I took him to some open space and set him down in a patch of sunlight. For ten minutes he lay sunbathing while I stood guard over him. Then he slid quietly into the tall grass, and vanished.