Agencies handle cats, dogs, bears, cows and horses. Urban snakes?
Snakes alive! Who do you call?
Local and state law enforcement officers often get called to deal with animals – both domestic and wild – during the course of their duties.
But do they deal with snakes?
This past week, on two separate days, snakes were spotted in downtown Elizabethton along Sycamore Street – one was captured in the parking lot for Mapes Piano String, a second on the sidewalk outside the Elizabethton Star. That sparked a discussion about how wildlife calls received by law enforcement officers are handled.
“It’s a pretty frequent thing in the county with animal calls,” said Carter County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Ron Street. “We had a call the other day with cows and pigs in the roadway.”
Street said officers frequently get calls related to domestic animals loose in roadways and reported cases of suspected animal abuse. He said officers of the department have also respond to calls about wildlife, such as snakes, being in or around homes.
“That is not something that happens frequently, but it is a common call,” Street said.
Elizabethton Chief of Police Greg Workman said his officers also receive calls about animals. “We usually get two or three a week. It’s usually not snakes though. It’s usually raccoons or skunks,” Workman said. “If we get a call on a raccoon or a skunk and it appears rabid and it is safe to do so we will put it down. It all depends on the location and what is around.”
When calls come in to the 911 Communications Center, dispatchers try to direct the caller to the proper agency according to Chris Sims, who is the GIS IT Coordinator for Carter County 911.
“Most of the calls our dispatchers deal with involve horses, or cows or dogs,” Sims said, adding those calls go to local law enforcement officers or to the animal control officer. When it comes to wild animals though, Sims said 911 dispatchers refer callers to contact the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Dennis Ward, a Wildlife Officer with the TWRA, said officers of the Agency typically only respond to situations with “large game” such as bears and deer.
“There are some individuals who are permitted through the TWRA to deal with nuisance animals, though they typically charge a fee,” Ward said. “We don’t typically come out and try to catch snakes and try to relocate them because they don’t always relocate well.”
Ward said that the “nuisance animal” classification covers snakes, along with opossums, skunks, raccoons and coyotes.
Ward did have one piece of advice to offer when dealing with snakes.
Think stored clothes.
“Moth balls can be fairly effective to deter snakes,” he said, adding that placing moth balls in garages and around entrances to crawl spaces could help keep snakes out. “I won’t say it’s 100 percent effective, but it can be effective. If I was going to do it, I would be liberal with the application.”
Another key point discovered during the Star’s research? While law enforcement may not conduct reptile relocation, sometimes a friendly neighbor will.
Both of the snakes mentioned above were captured by Mapes employee Bobby Bowling. The snakes were identified as king snakes, and Bowling said he plans to release them at his cabin because king snakes will eat rodents.
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