The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Triangular head, rattles prove snake’s no fake


October 4, 2016

A POLICE OFFICER holds a shovel with the rattler a local woman found in town.

When a snake is stretched across your porch, one of the last things most folks in Sweet Home might suspect is that it’s a rattlesnake.

But that’s exactly what Ardys Vaughn found outside her Foster-area home last week.

“I looked at it, and I couldn’t figure out what it was,” Vaughn said. It was draped from the bottom step into the bark in her flowerbed. She grabbed her camera to capture a photo.

“It wasn’t dead,” Vaughn said. “It kind of moved real fast. It started hissing and the tail was flipping.”

Vaughn is from the Midwest, she said, and she knows snakes. She quickly went inside.

“When it’s hissing, it’s tail is in the air, I’m not messing with it,” she said.

Vaughn called the police at 12:23 p.m. on Sept. 25 to the 5600 block of Poplar Street, at the bottom of the hill to the east of Foster Dam Road, in the area behind Foster Elementary School.

Officers Sean Potter and David Hickcox responded.

“She said the snake had slithered under her deck,” Hickcox said. “(Potter) started leaning down to check it out.”

“As soon as they got near the steps, it gives its warning,” said Sgt. Jason Van Eck. They used garden tools to try to pull the snake from underneath the porch.

“They didn’t want it to crawl back out of reach,” Van Eck said. Their goal was to bring it into the yard and dispatch it with a firearm.

The officers saw a couple of options: Let it go or “take care of it,” Hickcox said. If they let it go, it could potentially harm someone.

“We tried using a dog pole,” he said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t cinch up that tight.”

The snake partially hid inside a bucket under the porch, Hickcox said.

Potter used a garden rake to pin it down. Hickcox attempted multiple times to use the dog pole, but he couldn’t get it around the snake.

He was concerned about being bitten, he said, and both officers are deathly afraid of snakes.

“I try to avoid them,” he said. It doesn’t matter what kind of snake it is, “but I just can’t leave the snake under the lady’s house.”

Vaughn was at the back window above the porch, she said. The officers asked if she wanted to have the animal relocated by wildlife officials, but that would take a day. She told them she just wanted it dead.

As a matter of public safety, he said, Hickcox used a shovel to chop at the snake through a higher step and managed to kill it.

“I really thought they did a good job,” said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. “Especially for two people who don’t like snakes.”

This kind of encounter is rare in this part of Oregon, so rare that Nancy Taylor of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was initially skeptical that it was actually a rattlesnake.

She said most sightings are gopher snakes, also called bull snakes, which can flatten their heads, coil up and flick their tails like rattlesnakes. When in gravel or dry brush, they can simulate the rattling sound made by rattlesnakes. Their markings are similar enough that during a panic, they could be mistaken for rattlesnakes.

ARDYS VAUGHN stands in front of the area in which she spotted a rattlesnake, beneath her porch.

Rattlesnakes live in rocky outcroppings, and most of those in this region are now quarries, Taylor said. Only two or three sites have rattlesnake populations.

“In general, it’s pretty rare to have it in this kind of an area,” Taylor said.

Hickcox, Vaughn and her husband, Bill, confirmed that it was a rattlesnake.

“It was a nice-looking snake, 3½ feet long,” Bill Vaughn said. It had about four rattles and a button.


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