Anyone driving to Michigan with room for an extra passenger?
One thing: It’s a snake. A Dekay's brown snake, to be exact, a lean, less than 20-inch long reptile with a light streak along the back. And certainly not a mean streak.
This little not-at-all poisonous snake is trying to find his way back home after hitching a ride in a truck leaving a music festival in Rothbury, Michigan, a town just an hour away from Grand Rapids. It must have been a whopper of a party because, last week, the snake woke up more than 400 miles away, in Toronto.
That’s when Toronto Wildlife Centre got the call — presumably from a somewhat alarmed driver.
“He was curled up in some fencing that was picked up,” Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre tells MNN. “For some reason, it was picked up and driven all the way back to Toronto.”
No time to waste
The trouble is the snake can’t stay there. It’s hibernation season for many reptiles and snakes always stand the best chance of survival in the habitat that they know. So the group is anxiously trying to find him a lift back to Rothbury.
“We are getting very, very worried about getting the little guy home,” Karvonen says. “We are having great difficulty on a number of fronts.”
For one, the owners of the property where he came from have yet to return calls. The group needs permission to access the site. Then they will need a permit to bring a snake back over the border.
But most importantly: Who wants to give a snake a ride?
Often airlines let animals ride in cargo for free. But Rothbury is too small for a direct flight, so anyone going between there and Toronto would have to put up with some connections and plane changes and waiting. For this snake, it’s likely altogether too much stress.
“It is a wild, wild snake so he’s very frightened of us,” Karvonen explains. “As far as he’s concerned, we’re going to eat him. That probably goes through his mind every time he’s handled by us."
But winter is coming. And it will prove fatal for a snake without a warm bed to ride it out.
“The nighttime temperatures are getting cooler,” Karvonen says. “We’ve really got to get him home ASAP.”
And if not?
The stress of being so far from home in the care of humans could prove fatal — especially considering the Toronto Wildlife Centre would have to keep him until spring.
“And then for us too, as a charity that runs entirely on donations, that’s also caring for an animal every single day for six or seven months who really is perfectly releasable,” Karvonen says. “We would rather have him happily released now and spend those donations on helping other animals.”
So for this snake, it’s Rothbury. Or bust.
If you’re in Toronto, and think you might be able to road trip with a homesick snake — of course, he’ll be caged — get in touch with the Toronto Wildlife Centre at 416-631-0662, extension 3231. Maybe then, this accidental tourist will get a chance to curl up in his winter bed and marvel at what a long, strange trip it’s been.