A corn snake more than a metre-and-a-half long is safe at an animal hospital in Maple Ridge thanks to a woman and her curious puppy.
Tina Borsa was walking her dog, Lily, on Friday, Jan. 22.
She and her father, Behruz Janami, were strolling along Pipeline Road by Sylvia Place in Coquitlam; when, all of a sudden, Lily lunged towards something.
The 11-year-old Maltese, that is more bark than bite since she has no teeth, spotted the orange snake slithering slowly along the side of the road, about two blocks from the family home.
Borsa was initially “thrown aback” as she pulled on Lily’s leash to make sure her dog went nowhere near it. Then she wondered to herself: are snakes this big in the province?
“Seeing the colours, I thought this is definitely not a garter snake,” she said.
Borsa and her father decided to call animal control who told the pair they don’t deal with snakes. Animal control did give the pair the number for the Reptile Rehabilitation Centre, who told them, that their foundation was no longer running.
However, someone at the rehabilitation centre was able to provide Borsa with the number for the president of the B.C. Reptile Club, Deanna Wallace. Who, Borsa said, was really helpful.
The snake was barely moving. Wallace told Borsa that it was probably underfed and cold. Then she asked if Borsa would pick it up and put it in a crate to keep it warm.
“I think snakes are cool but I was such a chicken to pick it up,” laughed Borsa, who later regretted her decision, because, she said, it was a once in a lifetime chance to help out in that way.
And, when the Grade 6/7 Ecole Montgomery Middle School teacher told her class the story, they thought it was hilarious that she didn’t pick up the reptile.
“I love animals, I love reptiles. I was just worried because I didn’t know what type of snake it was. Or, if it was injured, I didn’t want to hurt it either,” she explained.
As they were standing there a municipal worker who was driving by pulled over. He attempted to help them, but, he was deaf and Borsa, not knowing any sign language, found it difficult to communicate.
But Borsa and her father left the snake with him and continued on their walk.
When they were on their way back, two more municipal workers had arrived on scene who told Borsa someone from bylaw was coming to pick up the animal.
Borsa, in turn, informed the city workers, a veterinarian in Maple Ridge had agreed to take it.
When Dr. Adrian Walton at Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge, initially saw the adult corn snake, he was so upset at the thought that it may have been released purposely into the wild, that he posted a video online warning people not to dump animals.
Walton, who specializes in exotic animal medicine, admitted he is not positive the reptile was dumped. It could have escaped, he noted.
However, a corn snake will avoid the cold. If it escaped from an enclosure indoors, it wouldn’t have left a warm building, he said.
“It generally won’t go into a cold place – like a lawn in the middle of Coquitlam,” added the reptile specialist.
Corn snakes can live up to 20 years and are native to the northern states of the United States, continued Walton, who estimated this reptile had been owned for about five to six years.
These snakes are able to handle winters, he said, but they need time to find a place to hide and brumate, their version of hibernation.
This snake was lucky, he noted, because it probably would have frozen to death overnight, with temperatures dropping to -3 C.
In the online video Walton posted, he noted at the end of every month, when people are typically moving, veterinarians are seeing more-and-more dumped animals. He begged people to find appropriate homes for them instead.
Walton highly recommends a corn snake as a pet, as long as you know what you are doing.
“Snakes can be absolutely wonderful pets for the right people. But you need to do some research,” he said.
The issue, he explained, is it’s too easy for people to buy reptiles on a whim. Then, when owners lose interest, they dump them.
“True reptile people would never dump a pet like that,” he said of the corn snake.
When the snake’s stray-hold is up it will be going to the B.C. Reptile Club.
“If you are going to buy a pet, it needs to be a forever pet. Do your research, join the B.C. Reptile Club, join the Facebook group B.C. Reptile Connections,” advised Walton.
There are some amazing local breeders, he added, who will set a person up with a snake, do all of the after-care, and help a person have a successful adoption long-term.
“Don’t get an animal unless you are absolutely willing to take care of it for its entire life.”
A message Borsa brought to her classroom as well.
“I told my students that too. For the life of that pet you’re their everything.”