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MI Press x2: Snake arrives by surprise delivery

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Posted by W von Papineäu on February 28, 2003 at 23:05:25:

MONROE EVENING NEWS (Michigan) 21 February 03 Snake arrives by surprise delivery (Charles Slat)
Temperance: It sounds like an urban legend: UPS delivers a package of gardening equipment. The package sits in a home for a few days. Next thing you know, the house is infested with baby rattlesnakes.
Carol Trabbic of Temperance says it happened to her and she has proof -- a dead snake in a mayonnaise jar and a package on her porch with several small holes in it. A still unopened package, by the way, with who knows what else inside.
“I’m afraid to open the box,” said Miss Trabbic, a substitute teacher.
Her ordeal began last week when the big garden composting bin she ordered arrived at her Minx Rd. home. “It was very heavy, so the UPS guy left it in the living room.”
It sat there for several days. As she was watching television Tuesday night, Miss Trabbic noticed her cat, Michelangelo, “fooling around in the dining room.”
She thought Michelangelo was teasing the dog, as usual, but when she took a closer look, she realized the cat was “throwing this snake up in the air.”
It was a little snake, to be sure -- 14 to 16 inches at most -- and barely alive. Even though Miss Trabbic figured it was a garter snake, it gave her the creeps.
“I took some tongs and threw it out on the road. I figured the cars would continue running over it.”
Meanwhile, she and a friend debated what kind of snake it was. She had figured it was a garter snake, but her friend said it looked like it could be a rattlesnake, though no rattle was evident.
They retrieved the now dead snake from the road, where it had been preserved by snow. They checked the Internet under non-poisonous water snakes and found some that looked like the snake in question. Then they checked under poisonous snakes and found a picture of an Eastern massasauga rattler. “There it was, dead on,” Miss Trabbic said.
She put the snake in a jar and took it to Regina Coeli Academy, a Catholic school in Toledo, to get another opinion. When Brother Tom Kovar, an academy science teacher, saw her coming, he said, “You’ve got an Eastern massasauga there.”
“I hadn’t said a word to him,” Miss Trabbic swears.
She didn’t have to. Brother Kovar said he immediately recognized the pattern on its skin. “I know the design of it. I’ve caught them before.” He said they’re also known as “pygmy rattlers” because they’re much smaller than other common species, such as the diamondback.
“They’re very dangerous,” he said, explaining that the snake is capable of striking five or six times in rapid succession.
He said the snake wasn’t even in its juvenile stage yet, so it hadn’t developed a rattle. Though the Eastern massasauga is an endangered species, it still can be found throughout the Midwest and its national range runs from western New York and southern Ontario south to eastern Iowa and eastern Missouri.
He said he’s fairly certain the snake Michelangelo found has some siblings. “They usually don’t have just one. They usually have five or six,” he said.
That’s why Miss Trabbic still hasn’t opened the garden composter. She called animal control, which referred her to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR said it’d send someone out, but no one’s arrived yet. The box is sitting in an unheated, enclosed porch.
Miss Trabbic said the composter was ordered through a Pennsylvania garden supply house and might have been in a warm warehouse or the snake was hibernating in the box before it was shipped. A few days in the warm house might have got it roaming and it could have found its way out of what appear to be several forklift punctures in the box, she theorizes.
“We can’t figure out any other way a snake would be in our home,” she said.
She called the company. “Of course, they denied they had any of these snakes,” Miss Trabbic said. “They said, ‘We don’t have any rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania.’ ” She told them they sure do.
“They said they’d put a note in my file,” she said.
Meanwhile, she’s not going to open the box unless it’s with someone from the DNR or a few of Michelangelo’s furry friends.
“We’re going to get all the neighborhood cats together when we open the box,” she said.
For his part, Michelangelo is none the worse for wear, and is now kind of a hero.
“We’re going to buy him a diamond necklace -- and we’re going to get 30 more cats,” Miss Trabbic said.

MONROE EVENING NEWS (Michigan) 22 February 03 Rattlesnake’ believed to be harmless fox snake
Temperence: Carol Trabbic now has a third opinion on the kind of snake that found its way into her Temperance home recently.
Monroe County Animal Control officials visited her home Friday and said they believe she has the remains of a harmless fox snake in a mayonnaise jar.
Earlier, Miss Trabbic feared she had a baby rattlesnake, and her fears were reinforced after checking the Internet and showing the snake to a science teacher at Regina Coeli Academy in Toledo who is familiar with rattlers.
Her cat had captured the snake in the house Tuesday night, several days after a box of garden equipment she had ordered through a catalog was delivered.
She suspected the box harbored the snake and it had gotten out through a hole in the box’s bottom. She left the box unopened until animal control officials arrived. The box did not contained additional snakes.
Miss Trabbic said the fox snake is common and harmless, but she also was mystified about how it got into the house. “It could have gotten in at UPS or it could have been in the crawl space,” she said.
Because the snake appeared days after the UPS delivery, “it seemed like too much of a coincidence,” she said.

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