EL DORADO HILLS, CA - Creepy, yes. Deadly? Not so much.
A 3-year-old girl who came face-to-face with a snake in her living room appears to have had a close encounter with a harmless gopher snake-- not a rattlesnake as reported on News10 Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Zoey Ames has been taught to be aware of rattlesnakes on the family's half-acre lot in El Dorado Hills. So her mother thought the child was joking when she announced there was a rattlesnake in the living room Monday.
"I'm talking to her from the kitchen saying, 'Zoey, don't even joke about that,'" Tami Ames explained.
Tami made the heart-stopping discovery when she left the kitchen to see what her daughter was talking about. Zoey was standing about two feet from what appeared to be a young rattlesnake that had apparently slithered through a gap in the weatherstripping under the front door and was lying passively on the tile floor.
Tami gathered up her daughter and took her to the other side of the house while she called 911. A crew from the Rescue Fire Protection District responded within minutes.
Captain Chris Paper also believed the intruder to be a rattlesnake, which he grabbed behind the head with his bare hand. The snake was later released in an open field.
The Ames family provided News10 with a picture of the snake, which was prominently featured in the television report. Almost immediately, snake experts contacted News10 to say everyone involved had made a common misidentification.
"Don't feel stupid. It's an honest mistake," said a viewer who identified himself as Python Ron. "Gopher snakes will even rattle their tail to make you think they're a rattlesnake," he said.
Scott Waters, who publishes a reptile magazine called Herp Nation, said the lighter brown color of the gopher snake is a giveaway.
By the way, Tami's husband William has repaired the weatherstripping under the front door to keep out all snakes, even those that aren't venomous.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net