A few weeks after I started this blog, I had a very strange experience. I never wrote about it here, but after recounting the story to some friends this weekend, I thought I would share it on Backyard Safari as well! It has to do with some unexpected wildlife, and didn’t take place in my backyard, or in a nearby field or forest, but right in my own living room!
It was late February, and every time I went outside I wore a heavy winter coat. One morning I had come home and carelessly thrown my jacket on the floor by the door. A few hours later I was planning on going out again, so I picked up my jacket and started to put it on. Imagine my surprise when out of a sleeve fell….
It was shocking, to say the least, and I stood there staring with my mouth agape, my mind grasping at possible explanations for what I had just seen. I should add here, that I do not have a pet snake. Or at least, I didn’t before this guy showed up! I should also add that I live many floors up in a large apartment complex.
In the logical parts of my brain I knew right away that this was an albino milksnake or kingsnake, and thus domestic and someone’s escaped pet. The other parts of my brain had a little more difficulty coming to terms with what was happening. It didn’t help that suitcases from a recent trip to India were spread around the living room, creating a nagging-if-nonsensical feeling that this may have been a stow-away from a more venomous land.
After a few moments of blinking in shock and sputtering “There’s a snake in my apartment!” it begin to slither away. This set me into movement, as I knew how easily he could have hidden forever in the corners of my then-messy apartment. I threw a t-shirt over him and ran to get a pillowcase off my bed. I quickly wrangled both snake and t-shirt inside, after which I stopped to take better stock of the situation.
I decided at that point that it must have been a neighbor’s pet snake that escaped and came under the door to my apartment. It then hid in the dark crevasses of my crumpled up jacket, which was lying close to the doorway. I still had to leave my apartment at that time, so I decided I would make the rounds of my neighbors a little later. I was understandably paranoid about this little Houdini escaping, however, so I ended up putting the pillowcase in a trash can which I put in my bathtub with the door closed.
After coming home later I asked my neighbors if they had “lost anything”–my decision to not give out too much information for fear of freaking out any neighbors uncomfortable with the idea of loose animals sneaking into their apartments ended up making for some confusing conversations–but no one had!
I got the snake out of the pillowcase to show Mr. Backyard Safari and take some more pictures. Some research has shown it to be a striped California Kingsnake. I should add that at this time I had recently gotten some mehndi (also called henna) applied to my hands and lower arms for a special occasion, which is what the reddish-brown designs are in the pictures.
He’s really quite a beautiful snake!
I never did find the original owners, and as I am not allowed to have pets in my apartment (another reason not to advertise the existence of a domesticated snake running around to neighbors) this little guy is now living at another safe location.
It was an unexpected experience, to say the least! The strangest part is knowing–from having escaped pet snakes occasionally as a child–how well they can hide. It’s likely that the snake came under the door and into my jacket in the short time between when I took it off and when I put it back on again, but it’s also possible that this guy was living in my apartment for who knows how long previously and was just never spotted. For this reason I’m actually quite grateful that I found it by it falling out of my jacket. I can’t imagine how much more shocking it would have been if I had lifted up a book or pile of laundry to find this snake coiled underneath. I’m also grateful, that as a snake lover who found this situation extremely odd but not frightening, I found the snake before someone else did! I can only imagine how another discovery might have ended.
Finally, the million dollar question, where did it come from?? If it wasn’t one of the apartments close to mine, how far did it have to travel to finally get to me? Which way did it take? How long was it roaming free between its great escape and final recapture in my living room?
These are all mysteries that I suppose I’ll never know the answers to.
So there you have it! Even domestic animals can become “backyard” wildlife under the right circumstances! And thanks to this snake I now have 1.) a good story to tell and 2.) motivation to keep my apartment clean!
I am not sure the likelihood of this every happening again, but if anyone is wondering what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation, my best advice is that pillowcases are your friend! They are a very common tool for people who work with snakes. They make it easy to pick the snake up, because you can either guide it to crawl in the entrance, or use the case like a glove, gently picking up the snake and then turning the pillowcase inside-out so the snake is inside. You can then tie the very top part closed, giving the snake room to move around inside without it being able to escape. You then have time to decide what you want to do! In a situation where you find a domestic breed of snake (an albino reptile is a fairly good give-away that it is domestic, as it is difficult for these animals to survive in the wild without being spotted and eaten) and are not able to care for it yourself, I would recommend calling a local vet’s office or wildlife rehabilitation place for more advice.
What say you, readers? Has anything like this happened to anyone else here? Feel free to leave stories in the comments!