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CA Press:Residents take snake problems into their own hands

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Posted by desiree on November 05, 2002 at 11:03:51:

In Reply to: Re: rattlesnakes.....endangered...??????(long) posted by desiree on November 05, 2002 at 10:25:23:


Residents take snake problems into their own hands
By John Loesing
Acorn Staff Writer

MICHAEL COONS/The Acorn COLD BLOODED RELOCATIONS--Bruce Freeman of Oak Park offers a free rattlesnake removal service for local residents.

Its rattlesnake season again and things are beginning to heat up.

The poisonous snakes are expected to come out in high numbers this year because of the unusually dry weather, but that doesnt mean there should be cause for alarm, experts say.

Both professional and volunteer wranglers are available to remove the snakes from your home and either destroy them or relocate them to the wild.

Others who are equipped to deal with the venomous vipers include representatives from the Los Angeles County Fire and Animal Control departments.

How each expert handles the problem is a matter of choice.

Bruce Freeman, a lifelong lover of reptiles, amphibians and other creepy-crawly things, admits that he often destroys the rattlesnakes that he captures, but thats only because no matter how you slice it, the snakes are a threat, he says.

"Im not a big fan of killing snakes, but as long as we live in the area and there kids and dogs, I dont see any way around it."

Unlike other animals such as fish and bullfrogs, rattlesnakes can be killedwithout a licenseby anyone.

A certified hunter-safety instructor of the California Department of Fish and game, Freeman offers to go onto private property with his pole and his lasso and voluntarily remove rattlesnakes.

Bruce goes voluntarily, not the snake.

"We live in an urban area, so for me to be able to go out into the wild and be with the wild animals is fun for me," said Freeman, a 53-year-old financial advisor who works out of his home in Oak Park.

Freeman said he began offering his wrangling service about eight years ago when a friend enlisted his help against a rattlesnake intruder.

At one Oak Park home two weeks ago, Freeman removed three snakes in four days. He also responds to rattlesnake alerts in Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.

No matter where duty calls, Freeman says hes always careful. The Southern Pacific rattlesnake can kill its prey in a heartbeat.

"Im no bullfighter," Freeman says. "I dont pick up a rattlesnake with my bare hands. Unlike the Crocodile Hunter, I use a noose on a six-foot pole."

Bo Slyapich, a 45-year-old professional rattlesnake wrangler from Agoura, prefers not to take chances either.

Slyapich, in fact, wears thick boots and protective padding when he goes on the prowl for poisonous snakes.

"Im all geared up. I dont go down there bare," he says.

Slyapich offers a full rattlesnake removal service for customers that includes searching underneath homes, inside wood piles and in other areas where the reptiles are known to take cover.

"Ive been huntin them for a long, long time, so I watch for them, I know there

they hide," he says.

Making rattlesnake house calls has become almost a full time occupation for Slyapich. In previous years, he worked as a snake wrangler for the movie industry.

The fee he charges depends on certain factors.

"It varies on the amount of property, how dangerous it is, so every estimate is different," Slyapich says. "I do the stuff the animal control wont do and the fire department wont do."

Like Bruce Freeman, Dan Giovanelli of Agoura Hills offers rattlesnake removal as a hobby.

Giovanelli is nature photographer who prefers catching the snakes and letting them go in the unpopulated mountain areas.

"You try to take it as far away from an urban settlement as far as you can," said Giovanelli, who uses a hook to catch rattlesnakes so he doesnt hurt them.

Slyapich captures the snakes using his own custom-made grabbers.

All three of the men agree that non-venomous species, such as gopher snakes, shouldnt be mistaken and killed like their poisonous relatives.

"The problem is that people call on a snake, not knowing if its a rattlesnake or a gopher snake, and the fire department will sometimes kill non-poisonous snakes and thats the last thing you want," Freeman said. "Those non-poisonous ones help keep the rodent population down."

Local rattlesnakes rarely grow past six feet, according to Freeman. At that length, they have an effective striking range of about three feet.

Rattlesnake intrusions are most common in housing developments that are closest to the hills, the experts say. When the sun gets too hot, they seek shade and water.

Freeman said rattlesnakes are territorial and if not removed permanently, they often return.

Said Slyapich, "I usually try to relocate it. I try not to kill it if I dont have to, but if they get in a area where I cant get to it, we have to kill them."

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