YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Tales: ‘Dad! There's snakes in the house'

January 17, 2002

"Dad!" my daughter, Kristin, screamed over the phone, "there's two snakes on the floor in the washroom. What do I do?"

She was pretty excited, maybe even hysterical and I was 10 miles away at the office.

"Close the door and don't let them in the family room," I advised. "And try to calm down, they're probably just gopher snakes," I told her.

"They don't look like gopher snakes. They look real dangerous and have orange backs and pink bellies," Kristin said, her voice cracking.

I was really concerned now.

Pink and orange snakes? It sounded like she was so excited that she was hallucinating.

"Stay away from them, Kristin, I'll be there in 15 minutes," I told her as I hung up and started for the door.


Racing down the road on the way home, I called our field foreman, Tony. Luckily he was only a quarter-mile from the house. I told him what the problem was and he assured me he would be at the house in a few seconds.

By the time I arrived home he was standing outside by the back door with shovel in hand. Lying on the ground were two of the scariest-looking dead snakes I had ever seen.

The identical snakes were over 7 feet in length and slender. Their black eyes were gigantic for their size and just as Kristin had described them, both reptiles sported bright pink backs and yellow-orange bellies. They were the most evil-looking snakes I had ever seen.

There was no doubt they were some type of poisonous, exotic snake. I wondered if they had escaped from the San Diego Zoo and how many more were in our house.

Tony told me when he arrived they were coiled together on the wash room floor and appeared to be mating and he smacked both with his shovel. One of the snakes was stunned but the other shot away from Tony and went straight up the wall so fast its momentum carried it across the ceiling back over Tony's head.

It bounced off the wall and streaked down behind the water heater. Tony pointed out it was the snake that appeared to have been slightly fricasseed with his shovel. He also apologized for the cuts in the wall behind the water heater.

After everyone calmed down and Tony had left, I got my shovel, loaded the shotgun and strapped my machete on my hip. Kristin grabbed her cane she used for hog showmanship and we searched for more of the evil-looking snakes, but none was found.

After hauling the two snakes to the trash pit, we looked in a book on snakes to see if we could identify them.

According to the reference book, they were western coachwhip snakes, pink phase. Although not poisonous, the book said they are aggressive and eat birds for a living. The book said they are fairly common in our area but I had never seen one, nor could any of my outdoor friends ever remember seeing one when I asked them later that week.

I discovered the exhaust hose fitting had broken on the back of the clothes dryer where it hooked to the outside vent, and assumed that's where they had entered the washroom. I repaired it quickly before more critters entered the house.

That night I called my friend Dave to find out more about these snakes. Dave is a snake expert and has a collection of more than 100 king snakes in his basement. Dave laughed when I told him what happened.

"Those snakes are undoubtedly the meanest and most ferocious snakes in North America," he said. "It's also believed they are the fastest snakes around. Only the black mamba in Africa is more aggressive, and they are poisonous to boot."

Dave went on to tell me about a trip he and a friend took to Arizona to capture a coachwhip for the museum of natural history in Santa Barbara. Dave said these snakes are so fast they are able to travel across the top of sage and creosote bushes and feed on birds, which they outrun and snatch out of the air.

According to Dave, he and his buddy spotted a coachwhip in the top of a creosote bush sunning itself. When they got close, though, the snake took off over the top of the bushes and disappeared.

Heading in the general direction the snake had last taken, they saw a blur as it charged and instantly the snake was on them. Before either could react, the coachwhip had bitten both on the face, neck and arms multiple times and just as quickly disappeared in a shot.

As they retreated to the car, blood dripping from multiple wounds, they decided if the museum wanted a coachwhip that bad it could send someone else to collect it. They ran out of Band-Aids trying to patch up all the damage.

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the internet at

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles