Baby rattlers loose in downtown Livingston

 

One baby rattlesnake has been captured, but there could be 10 or more on the loose in downtown Livingston after about a dozen others escaped from a cage in the back of a pickup Tuesday afternoon.

The pickup was parked in the alley  behind the Whiskey Creek Saloon at 110 N. Main St. around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon when some of the bar’s customers noticed that a couple of snakes had escaped from their cage and were loose in the back of the truck, said Whiskey Creek bartender Lori Munroe Wednesday morning. 

Then one customer spotted a snake that had escaped the truck and a group set out to capture it. Grabbing whatever tools they could find in their vehicles, they hunted down the rattler and one man pinned the snake’s head down with a fishing pole. He then picked it up with his hand and put it in a cooler. Later they transferred it to a different plastic container. The snake was about a foot long, Munroe said.

“It was kind of a show-and-tell day here,” she said about the atmosphere at the bar. 

The owner of the truck, who has not been identified, left the scene, but returned an hour later to say that he was missing a total of 12 snakes, including the one captured, Munroe said. 

It’s not clear if the snakes escaped in the downtown area or in other locations, she said, but she and customers searched the area without finding any of the missing rattlers.

Only the smallest snakes were able to escape because the gauge of the mesh in the cage was wide enough for them to squeeze through, Munroe said.

The actual explanation for the snakes’ escape is still unknown.

The mesh size of some snake cages will hold adult snakes but not babies, according to local rattlesnake consultant and enthusiast Michelle Becker. 

Becker, who has been capturing and handling rattlesnakes for 23 years, warns the public that baby rattlesnakes can actually be more dangerous than adult rattlesnakes. 

Immature rattlers don’t have the ability to regulate their venom and are inclined to strike and release all of their venom in one strike, which can be extremely poisonous, Becker said.

Also, they can’t be heard, because their rattles are not developed yet, she said.

You can tell the difference between a baby rattler and a garter snake because a baby rattler has a stubby tail with a black button on it, Becker said. A garter snake has stripes and its tail tapers to a point.

Baby rattlesnakes, which eat insects, would be capable of surviving downtown through the summer, but probably not much longer, Becker said.

If there are a dozen baby rattlers now living downtown, it is a significant concern for the safety of people and pets, she said.

This is the time of year that snakes are coming out of their dens, so it’s not uncommon for snake handlers to have rattlesnakes now, but it’s important for them to be responsible, Becker said. 

Livingston City Police continue to investigate the incident.