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AZ Press: Rattlers move in as city spreads out

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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 21, 2003 at 20:57:55:

TUCSON CITIZEN (Arizona) 21 April 03 Rattlers move in as city spreads out (Larry Copenhaver)
The Catalina Foothills homeowner had seen a snake periodically slithering in and out of a 3-inch drain hole in the stucco wall in her back yard.
"She called me Tuesday and said she had seen the rattlesnake there for a couple of days," said Sean Payne, owner of Painless Rattlesnake Removal Service.
"When my partner, Jeanette Borum, and I got there, we started putting water in there to flush the snake out," Payne said. "As soon as the water hit him, boom, there he was, and he started drinking the water.
"Actually, there were two in there, a male and a female. He came out - about a 3-footer - but she wouldn't. No matter how much water we put in there, she wouldn't budge."
The scene is a common one in and around Tucson. And the more rural the area is, the higher the incident rates, Payne said.
"We rarely see them in urban areas," he said. In rare cases, they might be spotted in housing areas along a prominent wash or riparian area.
"They get uncomfortable, and they don't want to be around people," he said. "They try to stay as far away from city life as they can. In fact, if you put a rattlesnake in the middle of town, he would not survive."
When people move into the suburbs or to rural areas, they are moving into critters' habitats, he said.
Recently he was called to remove a snake from a home in an suburban area.
"I found a rattlesnake in the house. The lady had left the door open to let her dog out. A little while later, she looked down and there was a rattler on her floor, he said. "He was about 2õ, 3 feet long. He got into the area under her cabinets and it was real hard to get out."
Payne, who is licensed for snake removal, said he loves the creatures and is very careful not to harm them. After they are captured, the snakes are taken to release points as close to their capture points as possible.
Taking the snake much more than a quarter of a mile from the capture point would likely be fatal for it, he said. "Snakes are very sensitive animals, and you have to keep them in their territory."
Katie Heiden, spokeswoman for Northwest Fire District, said firefighters respond to all snake calls, and they, too, relocate rattlesnakes.
Nonpoisonous snakes might be left behind after department officials explain the benefits of nonpoisonous snakes to homeowners. Some nonpoisonous snakes are said to frighten rattlesnakes away, plus their favorite foods are rodents.
According to Arizona Poison Control, an average of about 200 people are bitten by rattlesnakes each year in Arizona. Poison Control recommends anyone bitten by a snake should keep calm and go to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.
Heiden said a 16-year-old boy was bitten just above the ankle by a rattlesnake April 9 as the teen sat at an outdoor table at Arthur Pack Desert Golf Course. Apparently, very little venom penetrated the wound and the boy is recovering with no permanent disability.

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