The Great Gopher Snake Rescue
AKA-The Dangers of Bird Netting
It was a warm morning in late June when I got a call at the Splash Center from the Mather grounds crew —“There’s a snake stuck in a net” That sounded interesting —“What kind of net?” I asked. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it, can you come?” they responded.
So I grabbed our trusty accountant, Sara, who is always up for an adventure, and a pair of scissors. In my mind, I’m thinking-snip, snip, he goes his way and I go mine.
We arrive on the scene, and the grounds crew directed us up to a large hedge in front of a wooden fence. “It’s under there, they told us, pointing under the hedge. I crawled under the hedge — “Where?” — “right there” — “I don’t see it”— oh no — my plan was clearly not going to work.
This was a type of nylon netting that is used to keep birds out of your vegetable garden. The netting was stretched across the bottom of the fence, probably to keep critters from entering the back yard, but over time the net had begun to sag, and when our gopher snake friend slithered by he got tangled in it. The more he wiggled, the more tangled he became. As he twisted around — as only snakes can do — the netting became tighter and tighter.
So I went on to Plan B, which was to cut out a huge section of the netting, and remove it.
We put snake and netting into a carrier, and transported it back to the Splash Center. I was hopeful that I could still just do a snip, snip, snip, and he’d be free — no such luck!
The snake had twisted so much the netting had started to cut into his scales, and was in his mouth like a bit on a horse. It was going to take a special pair of scissors called suture removal scissors that are used to take out stiches.
Luckily I had such a pair of scissors at home, so I took the snake to my house and went to work. It took me more than an hour to completely remove all the netting, and our snake friend was not too happy about the experience.
As soon as he was free, I placed him in a cage, and he immediately curled up in the water bowl, where he stayed for more than 8 hours. That behavior told me that he must have been stuck in the netting for a long time was pretty dehydrated. He needed water badly.
He recovered quickly after that. He had a little trouble with closing his mouth, so we made sure he could eat alright by feeding him a small mouse.
We were happy to be able to release him back into the wild. We chose an area close to where he was found, just further out into the grassland, by a nearby creek.
By Lu-Anne Spencer-Hartle, Splash Critter Keeper
(and Wildlife Rehabilitator for Wildlife Care Association)