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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2007
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Bill Owens says the drought has snakes, such as this rat snake, out looking for water.
Daily photo by Paul Huggins
Bill Owens says the drought has snakes, such as this rat snake, out looking for water.

Snake alert
in the Valley

Reptiles are out in full
force hunting for wet habitats

By Tiffeny Hurtado
thurtado@decaturdaily.com 340-2440

Area snakes are in the same predicament as Valley residents. Both are looking for water.

One such snake found its way onto a Trinity back porch, sending Narith Bou's Siberian husky into a barking frenzy Monday around 10:30 p.m.

The cold-blooded visitor had slithered its way to the back porch and was eyeing the dog's water bucket.

"That dog never barks, and he was going crazy," said Lori Bou.

The couple called the Trinity Town Hall to get someone to catch the snake.

"I just wanted it gone, and neither one of us wanted to go out there and pick it up, because we didn't know if it could be poisonous," she said.

Bill Owens of Decatur, who volunteers across North Alabama to help with snake removal, showed up later that night to catch the reptile and release it elsewhere. He said he usually gets two to three calls a month for snake removals.

"Most people are just completely petrified when it comes to snakes, and I try to step in and prevent the snakes from being killed," he said.

Owens caught the snake at the Bous' back door and stuffed it into a pillowcase.

The 4-foot l reptile was a harmless rat snake.

A full-time painter and part-time snake catcher, Owens said he often catches snakes without equipment, but sometimes uses a paint roller as a makeshift snake stick.

Because the Tennessee Valley experienced a warm winter and is in the middle of an exceptional drought, snakes are out in full force, Owens said.

Bill Gates, a wildlife biologist at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, said snakes are on the move to find wet habitats because the drought is drying up their usual haunts.

To keep snakes away, he suggests sealing off basements and crawl spaces beneath homes. Keeping lawns mowed and not piling up things close to houses also will prevent snakes from slithering in for shelter.

"I've heard some people use mothballs to keep them away, but I don't really think that works well," he said.

Overall, Gates said, the drought could have an adverse effect on snake populations.

Their numbers could dwindle because their usual prey — mice and rats — have less vegetation to feed on, which means snakes have less to eat.

Snake buster

Bill Owens is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who has a snake problem. You can contact him at 306-0455 or 606-7449.

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