Nearly 100 Wild Rattlesnakes Removed From Beneath California Home

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SF Gate

In a story that sounds like a nightmare come true, a den of more than 100 rattlesnakes was recently discovered underneath a California residence.

On October 2nd, a woman called Sonoma County Reptile Rescue to report she was worried there was a snake den underneath her house in Santa Rosa, a small city in the heart of wine country about 60-miles north of San Francisco.

When Al Wolf, Director of the Reptile Rescue, went to investigate, he made a startling discovery. He found 59 juvenile rattlesnakes and 22 adults, as well as a dead cat and a dead possum. He made two more follow up trips to the site and removed 11 more adult snakes, for a total of 92 snakes all together.

It was unlike anything he had ever seen before.

“I’ve been doing this 32 years. I get calls with snakes under the house pretty often. The most I’ve done under a house is four or five.”

He also noted that while he has seen snake dens of a similar size in the wild, he’s never encountered one so big in a residential area.

While Southern California is home to an additional seven species of venomous snakes, Northern Pacific rattlesnakes are the only venomous snake in the Northern part of the state and they are typically only aggressive when agitated or provoked.

Wolf said he knew he had a big job on his hands when his initial look under the house immediatly revealed seven sakes. At that point he went back to his truck to retrieve some special equipment and got to work.

He crawled on his hands and knees under the house for almost four hours, tipping over rocks and debris and searching every crevice of the houses foundation for snakes.

While most people would have been terrified of such an endeavor, he said he found it to be exciting.

“You go under the first part of the house and there’s storage and then it goes into the area that’s tight and you have to crawl into it and you can smell the rattlesnake smell. 

It’s the smell of their droppings. I got in, and I smelled that and it’s like when you smell popcorn and you go ‘Oh!’ Right away, I knew I might have something special and I was hoping … and occasionally your hopes come true.”

Wolf uses a method of non-lethal removal, and does not exterminate the snakes he removes from homes in situations like this. Instead he finds uninhabited areas and releases them back into the wild, often on ranches where landowners are open to transplanting snakes to help with pest control.

He said this particular home proved to be the perfect denning site for the snakes, as the house was built on top of a rocky outcrop and the foundation had openings that allowed the snakes easy access.

“This was obviously their den site. They had access to travel in and out and get food.”

Wolf said the homeowner reminded shockingly calm about the whole ordeal, and even joked about the situation.

“She told me, ‘Now I know why I haven’t had any rodents all these years.”

She has asked to remain anonymous to prevent her neighbors from panicking about their snake infested neighborhood, and he plans to return to the home again in a month and one more in the spring to make sure any left over snakes aren’t recolonizing the den.

“This lady wasn’t afraid of them. She doesn’t mind having them there. There were just a couple too many.”



A beer bottle on a dock


A beer bottle on a dock