My Story: Trouble in paradise

The snake catcher was optimistic and assured me he would catch the snake in his teeth if need be.

snakes.88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
I am an animal lover, no doubt about it. I have several pets and in my house spiders and bees are not stepped on, but carefully caught in cups and released outdoors. Generally I prefer adopting pets and not the other way around, but sometimes animals have other ideas. When my husband discovered a poisonous viper sunbathing outside our bathroom window, I was more fascinated than frightened. After we had seen the viper sunbathing on a giant jasmine bush for several days in a row, it became apparent that he had adopted us and was here to stay. Every few days my husband would climb up on a ladder, to the height of about 2.5 meters, and try, with one hand on the ladder and the other on snake-catching tongs, to catch the viper. Each time, the snake would slither back into the bush and hide out for the next few days. This went on and on. Finally spring turned into summer and it was hot outside everywhere, and the viper didn't need to sunbathe right outside the bathroom window. Everyone was certain the snake had moved on, but alas, the seasons changed, and once again it was almost spring. Guess what? Our viper came back. Or did he ever leave is the real question. Our jasmine grows over the shed. There is no lack of entry points for the viper to penetrate the shed and spend its time away from the cold. There are even blankets inside for the snake to keep warm (not the reason for the blankets being there). So all last summer, fall and winter, nobody dared to go into the shed without the utmost caution. One warm winter day a few weeks ago, I remembered our "pet viper" and decided without much thought to see if he was back. Did I get a start. As boldly as you please, he was snuggled up on the jasmine, sunbathing as if he owned the place. Once again our bathroom was turned into a reptile observation center; once again friends and neighbors came to see our viper; and once again my husband brought out the ladder and began his biweekly hunt. The territory was just too difficult. The choice was to cut down a huge, 30-year-old jasmine bush or continue to coexist with a poisonous snake. I wouldn't cut down the jasmine and I was afraid the snake would bite someone getting into or out of the car, or even one of the cats. I had to take action. Is there such a thing as a snake trap? Would a hedgehog do the job? In the end I called my veterinarian and asked him if there was such a thing as a snake catcher and if he knew one. Well, one thing led to another and I got a phone number. Living here for so many years has taught me that people will sometimes promise you things even when they can't deliver them, so when calling the snake catcher I described to him very carefully and in great detail the difficult terrain where our viper was living. The snake catcher was optimistic and assured me he would catch the snake in his teeth if need be, and for a mere NIS 450 my problem would be solved. He also said I had to pay even if he didn't catch the snake, but gave me a guarantee that if he didn't catch it, he would come back another time and try again. I thought, yeah, right! He will go back to town and I will be stuck with my snake, minus NIS 450, not to mention having a husband who will say "I told you so" forever. So now all I had to do was wait for the next grand appearance of the snake. Tuesday morning I woke up and said to my daughter, "Today is the day we catch the viper." I didn't know if he'd appear, but since it was more than three days since the last attack on his territory, I figured it was about time. At 10 I went to the reptile observation center and discovered our pet viper taking a sunbath under some leaves. At once I called Itay, the snake catcher. He said he had a scooter and would get there as soon as he could, and I should keep an eye on the snake to ensure it didn't leave the area. I had to walk the dog but wasn't worried since it was early and the snake usually sunbathed until about two in the same spot (or until my husband tried to catch it). I went about my business and when I came home, no snake. Oy vey! I had a snake catcher coming by scooter from Rishon Lezion, an hour away, and the snake had decided to go AWOL. Now what? Should I call him? Would he hear the phone on his scooter? Wasn't it dangerous to disturb him while he was driving? Would I have to pay him when he never even saw the snake? One hour later I got a phone call. It was Itay; his GPS had brought him as far as my next-door neighbor's house. I walked over to get him, not knowing how to break the news to him: There was no snake. He took off his helmet and I let out the bad news, expecting one angry snake catcher, but instead he just said, "No problem, I'll find him." When I showed him the jasmine and the shed, he got down to business immediately. Within seconds Itay was all over the place, one minute on the shed, one minute inside the shed, in the bushes, on the shed, I couldn't keep up. He asked me to constantly watch the grass and make sure the snake didn't get away. Itay searched and searched. He emptied the shed of its contents and checked each bag, box and blanket for evidence of a snake. (This alone was worth NIS 450!) He searched the jasmine, and after three long and difficult hours he finally laid eyes on the snake. I was ecstatic; he saw it too! We took a lunch break and soon resumed our stations; I searched the grass so the snake would not get away, and Itay crawled into the jasmine, not unlike a snake himself, the way he entered. I almost gave up hope at one point and was ready to suggest he come back another time, but I saw his enthusiasm growing and I knew the end must be near. I took leave from my station and got my digital camera. Four and a half hours after the search began, Itay exited the jasmine with the viper in his bare hands. It was like having the late Steve Rackman, the alligator wrestler, right in my own backyard. Being the animal lover I am, however, I kind of miss watching the snake from the bathroom window.