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FL Press: Snake Getter has soft spot

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Sun Nov 26 09:03:17 2006  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

ORLANDO SENTINEL (Florida) 23 November 06 Snake Getter has soft spot for slick species - A stucco salesman is part of a network of handlers who answer calls to move reptiles out of harm's way. (Sherry Boas)
Minneola: Reptiles that give others the heebie-jeebies fascinate Jim Frana.
As a member of Snake Getters, an all-volunteer network of experienced snake handlers based in Central Florida, Frana can pursue his passion for all things slithery and help educate the public at the same time.
"I've got my name with the Lake County sheriff's department, Lake Animal Control, Orange County Fire and Rescue and anybody that asks for help," said Frana, 43, who works as a stucco salesman for Metro Building Supply when he is not out rescuing snakes.
"There's not a whole lot of people who come out to do that," said Tom Brown, a Lake deputy sheriff. "Jim is well-trained to do what he does. He wears all the protective clothes -- snake boots, gloves and uses a snake hook -- and he's very knowledgeable about reptiles."
According to Brown, the Sheriff's Office gets all kinds of calls during the year from people concerned about snakes in their homes or on their property. The phone lines are especially busy during the hot summer months.
"Since the beginning of this year, I've gotten over 50 calls," said Frana, a longstanding member of the Central Florida Herpetology Society. "Two times I've rescued coral snakes, and I've gotten six rattlesnakes so far. The rest of the calls have been for nonpoisonous snakes."
"I got started with snakes when I was about 8 years old," said the Florida native, who grew up in Pine Hills. "Back then, there was all woods behind where we lived, and I'd go snake hunting most every day."
During his childhood, hognose snakes, black racers, king snakes, banded water snakes and rat snakes were his most common catches, but occasionally he would come upon a venomous snake. When he managed to capture those, he would take them to Gatorland or Serpentine World, a now defunct reptile emporium in Kissimmee.
It was through Gatorland that Frana met Tanith Tyre, who started Snake Getters about 10 years ago.
"She wanted to make sure that people wouldn't just go out and kill snakes," he said. "She developed Snake Getters as an avenue for people to call to get help removing unwanted snakes instead of destroying them."
The service Snake Getters provides -- sending qualified snake handlers out to remove reptiles from homes or businesses -- is available at no charge. About 150 people, including eight in Lake County, are registered with the online network as qualified handlers, said Howard Riley, who oversees Snake Getters volunteers.
Volunteers such as Frana first try to move any native snakes to an acceptable habitat. If a nearby safe spot is not available, handlers are allowed to keep, trade or sell the reptiles. However, should a volunteer discover a non-native species such as an albino python, boa constrictor or monitor lizard, it is against Snake Getters' policy for the animal to be released. It can only be kept, traded or sold.
Two boas have found a new home in Frana's residence in Minneola. His children, Trevor, 13, and Shelby, 8, share their father's interest in serpents and keep the boas as pets. Frana's wife, Lisa, however, draws the line at venomous snakes.
"She lets me show them to the kids but won't let me keep them," he said.
Most of the snakes Frana rescues -- mostly harmless rat snakes and corn snakes -- are given away to other herpetologists or released into wild areas where they can live safely.
"What people don't realize is that most snakes are beneficial," Frana said. "They eat cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, small rodents and frogs. The venom from poisonous snakes is used for medical research as well as for antivenin. Rather than kill snakes, I wish more people would call a qualified handler to come out, capture and release the snake into a place where it will be less likely to interact with people."
Snake Getter has soft spot for slick species


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