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Clay Davenport 04-01-2003 10:13 AM

King snake finds shelter in apartment stove
North Carolina

CARRBORO -- The residents of one unit at Chateau Apartments didnít need coffee to wake up Friday morning.

Thatís because when they turned on the kitchen light in their apartments, they saw a 2-foot black-and-white snake winding its way across the kitchen floor and behind the stove, complex manager Jim Omara said Monday.

When residents called Omara about the snake, he immediately called Carrboro Animal Control Officer Amanda Stipe.

"This is my first time ever experiencing a snake in an apartment," said Omara, who added that he was more than happy to let Animal Control resolve the problem because heís scared of snakes and spiders.

Omara speculated that the snake was probably a pet that belongs to someone living in the same building.

Stipe said she, too, thought the snake was a pet because itís a California king snake not indigenous to this state. She sent a photograph to Dave Davenport, herpetologist at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, who identified it.

California kings are non-poisonous and normally range the hills and valleys of Arizona, Western Nevada and California. They eat lizards, rodents, birds and snakes, including rattlesnakes, according to the Web site of Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno, Calif.

Stipe had thought the snake wasnít poisonous, but to be on the safe side, she used 3-foot-long "snake tongs" to retrieve it from inside the back of the stove. She then dropped it into a pillowcase.

She said she doesnít imitate "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who picks up even poisonous snakes by the tail.

After looking under the stoveís burners and in the pan drawer with no success, a maintenance worker at the complex moved the stove out from the wall and removed a bolt on the wire cover. The snake was curled up inside, Stipe said.

Finding a snake in a stove is a first for Stipe in her six and a half years as an animal control officer, she said.

But she has found snakes twined around refrigerator coils, a favorite place for reptiles because of the warmth, she said.

A local veterinarian is keeping the snake until a home can be found for it or the owner claims it, Stipe said.

To claim the snake, call Stipe at 918-7397.

The Herald-Sun

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