A Sonoma County snake-removal guy — whose nonprofit removes rattlesnakes from private property and releases them elsewhere in the wild or on properties where rodent control is needed — says he recently went under a house and found 92 snakes in a matter of hours.
Al Wolf of Sonoma County Reptile Rescue has made it his business for over three decades to humanely handle rattlesnakes that show up on people's property. And earlier this month, he was called to a home in northeast Santa Rosa, in the Mayacamas Mountains, on a report of a rattlesnake den. He ended up walking out of there with 22 adult snakes and 59 babies — and on two return trips he came out with 11 more, for a total of 92. Wolf says this is a record for a one-property haul.
Wolf told the Chronicle he immediately found an adult snake and several babies when he dropped under the house, and smelled the "unmistakable" odor of rattlesnake feces. Over the course of three hours and 45 minutes, Wolf says, he scrabbled around under the home, checking every nook and cranny with a flashlight, armed with a grabber tool, two plastic buckets, and some protective gloves.
"It was a lot of physical work for several hours, breathing dirty, dusty, crummy stuff," he told the paper. "Moving things aside to make a pathway back, and carefully checking, double-checking where things might come out of."
A typical call, Wolf says, will yield one or two snakes — maybe as many as 12. But this slithering mass was something special.
"I was tickled pink," Wolf tells the Chronicle. "It’s what I like to do, and I generally get a call and find one, maybe two rattlesnakes. But when you start finding stuff like this, I think, 'Oh good, this is a really worthwhile call.'"
Many of these baby snakes were likely just over a week old, Wolf says. Many had the appearance of getting ready to shed their first skin, which he says will happen 10 or 11 days after they're born.
And there were no eggs to be found because rattlesnakes actually have live births — they're a species of snake that are ovoviviparous, which means their eggs remain inside their bodies and the young are hatched live from inside.
The snakes were all released into wilderness areas in northern Sonoma County in areas with other rattlers, as well as rodents and lizards to eat. Wolf says he has 35 den sites around the county where he releases the reptiles — and he will bring them to ranches where owners say more snakes are needed to control the pest population.
As for the den under the house in question, Wolf says his work isn't done there, and more snakes might be hiding. He'll go back at least a few times more, both as rattlesnakes begin their hunt for safe winter hibernating spots, and in the spring when they start breeding again.
Photo: Sonoma County Reptile Rescue/Facebook