June 14, 2007

There's enlightenment in them thar intertubes!

If you've ever wondered what would happen if the Buddha was attacked by a giant rattlesnake, now you know: Bet on the Rattler.

Buddha, a 9-year-old yellow Lab, was spending a Sunday doing what dogs do in sprawling backyards. After bounding in and out of the nooks and crannies of his Old Agoura yard, Buddha cornered an adult rattlesnake coiled around a planter by the pool.

Going nose to forked tongue with a 5-foot rattler as thick as a grown man's forearm prompted a venomous bite that landed Buddha at the Pet Emergency Clinic in Thousand Oaks for a dose of antivenin.

According to Buddha's owner, Michael Nadlman, Buddha was the fourth dog rushed to the clinic June 3 because of a rattlesnake bite.

"It was a big, nasty snake as thick as my arm," Nadlman said.

Buddha's ordeal is typical, according to Bo Slyapich, a local snake wrangler. Slyapich works full-time nine months out of the year capturing and releasing pesky poisonous snakes from people's homes and conducting free workshops on snake safety. He advises ways to snake-proof homes so the critters aren't tempted to make a summer house out of a garage, move in under a deck or curl up in lush landscaping.

HANDS OFF- Wrangler Bo Slyapich keeps his distance while working on a local rattlesnake removal job. The bite from a Southern Pacific rattlesnake is seldom fatal, officials say, unlike the nearby Mojave rattlesnake which carries more dangerous neurotoxins. Still, it's important to be familiar with the species and learn how it behaves. Snakes do not "attack" humans unless provoked.
"The southern Pacific rattlesnake accounts for more bites than any other snake, probably because there's a lot of them and we build our homes where their homes are," Slyapich said.

Strike force

It's been a banner season for snake snatching, and the season has only just begun, Slyapich said. "After 20 years catching these guys, I've never seen a season like this."

Record rains over the last couple of years produced record plant growth, allowing the rodent population to flourish. More rodents means more food for snakes.

According to Slyapich, a healthy female rattlesnake can produce a "clutch" of four to 10 offspring, sometimes more. Within a week, the baby snakes leave their mother's side and slither into comfortable habitats in garages, behind refrigerators or in the thick, damp plants that surround homes.

Houses provide ample spots for hot and bothered snakes to take cover either from the cold or rising temperatures.

"They come out in the morning," Slyapich said. "When it gets too hot for us, it gets too hot for them."

Sprinklers also lure rattlesnakes to homes, he said.

The booming snake population keeps Slyapich busy. Compared to previous years, he has had three times the number of calls for snake removal. Last week he was fielding three to four calls per day. Slyapich said he'll answer snake calls at all hours of the day and night.

He started catching snakes when he was child and later turned his hand to catching snakes on movie sets.

After 20 years as a snake wrangler, Slyapich has gone hightech and uses nightvision cameras and fiber-optic scopes to peer into paneled walls and look into refrigerators and vehicles. He even had custom tongs created, allowing for snake captures in one fell swoop. When Slyapich goes on the prowl for poisonous snakes he wears thick boots and protec

Posted by Steve-O at June 14, 2007 12:35 PM | TrackBack

Where, oh where, is Riki Tiki Tavi when you need him?

Posted by: R P at June 14, 2007 01:50 PM

When my mother was a little girl, she lived on a ranch in Valley Center, in the mountains northeast of San Diego. My grandad owned a half-coyote mongrel named Buster who answered only to grandad. One day Buster's curiosity got him into trouble, and he ended up with a set of fang punctures in his muzzle. His head swelled up and they thought he was going to die, but he recovered, and from that experience developed two things: a resistance to rattlesnake venom and a lifelong hatred of the snakes. My mother tells me he was utterly ruthless in his quest to find and kill as many of the reptiles as he could.

But in general, the one domestic animal that is absolutely murder on snakes is pigs, hands down.

Posted by: Boy Named Sous at June 14, 2007 05:40 PM

This summer sucks due to no SOAP sequel! Snakes on a Dog . . . just not the same.

"Ooh! I'm ready for it! Come on bring it!"

Posted by: Chai-rista at June 18, 2007 12:22 PM