Guest Column


Malibu Rattlesnakes, Beware

By Claire Fullerton

When my husband and I first moved to Malibu, I anticipated an ideal lifestyle shaped from ocean views and perfect weather. It would be a permanent vacation compared to the hustle of inland Los Angeles, and I imagined a languid existence separated from the masses in a region populated by the esoteric few.

We should have been tipped off that all that glitters is not gold when, six weeks after we moved in, five deer from the hills behind us began a ritual of sauntering down and mowing through the landscape. At first, we were charmed, but within the following month, my husband had declared war. He was no longer charmed when the landscaper’s first bill arrived and there was nothing to show for it.

An old adage comes to mind: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I walked outside yesterday and saw a three- and a-half foot rattlesnake coiled up against the wall in our driveway. My blood ran cold as the energy of fight or flight coursed through me. I ran inside and clutched the phone. With senseless propulsion, I called my husband and breathlessly spilled out the facts: there was a rattlesnake in our driveway and it was only a matter of time before it would come and get me. “Leave it alone,” my husband advised, “it’ll go away on its own.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear and I hung up with a vague recollection of reading somewhere about a snake wrangler. I called The Malibu Animal Hospital, believing that someone there would know if the snake wrangler is fact or fiction. It turned out that he is fact.

Bo Slyapich is the guy’s name and, wonder of all wonders, snake wrangling is his livelihood. I dialed his number. “There’s a snake in my driveway,” I blurted without preamble.

“OK, where are you and can you describe the snake to me?” the voice on the line queried in a tone that matched the immediacy of my own. I gave him the details and was instantly relieved that my trouble had found a companion. “OK, stay calm, don’t get too close but be sure to keep an eye on him. I’m on Las Flores and I’m walking to my truck, I’m on my way,” he said as he sprang into action.

It’s not as if I have a frame of reference concerning snake wranglers, but for some reason I was astounded when Bo pulled into our driveway. He drove a massive pick-up with signage on the door that he leaped out of in a single bound. He wore knee high lace-up boots, kneepads, khaki shorts and what looked to be a construction worker’s belt with implements hanging from it. With an introductory handshake, he appraised the situation, walked over to the snake and seized it with a long pole. Deftly, he threw it into a plastic container and snapped the lid. I stood feebly at attention thinking of all the drama I’d aroused only to have it resolved in less than 30 seconds.

“Let me give you a little education about snakes,” Bo said, reaching into his truck and producing a photo-album. There were glossies of Bo posing beside snakes of differing size and color. He pointed out the intricacies of each snake, emphasizing color, skin pattern and head size. He told me where snakes typically reside and when they come out into the open. He picked up another container. Inside was a small rattlesnake that he deemed especially dangerous for all of its undisciplined youth. Satisfied that I understood the information, he suggested we investigate the rest of the property.

“Walk behind me and keep an eye out,” he said, carrying his pole and thrashing it through the grass. He kneeled and inspected underground wire covers and shook his head in disapproval at the pile of sandbags stacked in our driveway. Back at his truck, he gave me the final diagnosis: our property was in excellent shape but I should be on snake-alert until early fall.

What, I wondered, is the price for the quelling of fear, the release of emotional anxiety and the removal of a snake? I was going to have to explain all this to my husband and I was hoping there would be no disproportionate charge. Happily, the fee was so reasonable that I tipped the man an extra ten dollars.

What I like best about Malibu is that for every esoteric drama there seems to be a guy like Bo Slyapich who is ready to step up and address it. We are a community here who knows the game and how to play it. If that weren’t the case, then Malibu wouldn’t have its very own snake wrangler.