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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 23, 2003 at 09:12:18:
ARIZONA REPUBLIC (Phoenix, Arizona) 22 March 03 Rattler relocaters busy - Warmth bringing out reptiles (Emily Bittner)
Northeast Valley: Snake season is under way, which means that the desert dwellers are seeking refuge in their former habitats - homes in the Northeast Valley.
Volunteers Jeff and Rachel Almond handle almost 90 percent of thousands of snake-removal calls that Rural/Metro Fire Department receives each year for Scottsdale, they said. In every one of the seven years they've been relocating the snakes, more calls have come in. At this point last year, Rural/Metro had received 88 snake calls. This year, it has gotten 115.
Encroaching development is mostly to blame, the Almonds say.
When the season started this month, the Almonds began receiving as many as 10 calls a day, several of them from people with "snake phobia."
"They're horrified," said Rachel, describing some callers and house visits. "They're crying. Snakes are people's biggest phobia."
Rachel used to be scared, too, and sometimes still puts a cloth over the big snakes' heads when she retrieves them.
Higher temperatures bring residents out for spring yard work, but they also attract snakes out of hibernation.
Rural/Metro sends firefighters when the snake threatens people or pets, but most snakes are in back yards or outside the home. The Almonds answer those calls for free. Last year, they answered about 1,900 of Rural/Metro's 2,702 calls.
Rural/Metro handles most of the calls in Cave Creek, Carefree, Rio Verde, Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills, said Ruthanne Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the department.
Most snakes they pack away are harmless - usually gopher snakes - but an occasional diamondback rattler creeps into back yards, too.
When any call comes in, Rachel totes their two children - Jacob, 5, and Alexandria, 3 - to the affected house. Armed with a white bucket, she nabs the reptilian invaders with her hand and stores them in the bucket together for later release.
The Almonds are applying for non-profit status for their snake-removal organization, J&R Reptile Wildlife Rescue/Relocation, citing rising gasoline prices, the time commitment and the increasing mileage on their car.
The snakes that they relocate might not survive the move and have to compete for resources with other snakes in the territory. The Almonds said they try to place the snakes in areas with food and water, but finding those areas is becoming harder.
"But that way, we know at least they have a chance," Jeff said.
Call the Rural/Metro non-emergency line to have a snake removed. In case of a snakebite, call 911, Gilbert said.
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