PAWTUCKET — Animal Control Supervisor John Holmes is not usually fearful of snakes, but he said he never encountered so many of the potentially lethal variety as he did Monday in a house on Rosemont Avenue.
Responding to an anonymous complaint, Holmes went out to the single-family home on Monday afternoon to investigate. He found plastic bins containing numerous exotic snakes, many of a type that he couldn't identify, along with a skunk that had been “de-scented.”
“In my 37 years in Animal Control, I never saw anything like this,” said Holmes. “This was a very dangerous situation. Once we were in and looked at what we were dealing with, we backed off and called DEM.”
Holmes noted that at one point, he pulled out an uncovered bin that contained a large snake of a type that he did not recognize, and after looking at it, pushed it back in place. He later found out that it was a poisonous one.
“If it had bit me, it could have been deadly. After yesterday, I've learned to respect any situation with snakes,” he noted.
Police officers from the state Department of Environmental Management arrived at the house and took over the investigation. Holmes said the occupants of the house, a mother and her 23-year-old son, were both cooperative with authorities and let both the city animal control officers and DEM officers into the home.
Gail Mastrati, DEM spokeswoman, said that DEM officers, with assistance from the Rainforest Reptiles organization, removed a total of seven snakes from the house, six of which were found to be venomous and one that is questionable. She said these included a gaboon viper, a rhinoceros viper, a northern copperhead, a uracoan rattlesnake, an Asian/green vine snake, and a bronzehead tree snake. Also taken from the house was one captive skunk, she said.
The owner of the reptiles and the skunk, Charles Kendrick, of the Rosemont Avenue address, was charged by DEM officers for violating state law with one count of possession of wild reptiles and amphibians without a permit, and possession of an untagged fur bearer (the skunk), Mastrati said.
Mastrati said that Rainforest Reptiles, a Boston-based organization that is considered to be a leading reptile consultant and provides training and education throughout the northeast, currently has custody of the snakes. The organization is also known for providing assistance to environmental police and conservation officers.
The skunk was turned over to the state Department of Health to be tested for rabies, Mastrati said. She added that it is against state law to keep a skunk as a pet.