“Caution, may have venomous snakes inside.” – Al
A former employee of the San Francisco Zoo, Al Wolf spends all his time looking for snakes and caring for animals. In 1989 he started Sonoma County Reptile Rescue, a nonprofit organization that specializes in snake rescue and educational programs. With Education Coordinator Laurie Osborne, they are also on-call for snake rescue for the County of Sonoma. Al is delighted to say he “hasn’t had a paycheck for 15 years”. Why? He gets to do what he’s loved since childhood—looking for snakes.
March signifies the beginning of snake season in Sonoma County and runs through October. Al’s emergency hotline is already receiving lots of phone calls. Just this past Friday he went to Petaluma and rescued a rattlesnake. You can’t miss him. The Reptile Rescue vehicle is brightly colored with a warning sign that says “Caution may have venomous snakes inside”.
Al is quick to say “we never say never anymore” because he and Laurie have seen and heard it all. Calls have included hallucinations about snakes in the carpet to house-calls, which aren’t technically part of Reptile Rescue’s domain. Laurie was called to a home whose resident was convinced there was a snake in the closet…it turned out to be a glove. One of Al’s memorable calls came at midnight from a woman who said there was a snake in the house and pleaded with Al to drive over. Once there, her breath smelled like alcohol and she confessed there was no snake; she just wanted to meet him again. “After all these years I don’t know what’s weird anymore”, he says.
As part of his rescue and adoption efforts, he cares for chickens, parrots, alpacas, pigeons, pheasants, quail and most recently, a pig named Janice, who was found roaming the streets of San Francisco. (Read more about Janice’s rescue here). Just last week Laurie took Janice to two of her educational programs: one at the Santa Rosa Junior College; the other in Napa.
Al just sold the buffalo he’s taken care of for 25 years and says perhaps now he’ll take a vacation without worrying. Last year he went to Arizona for four days. Not to golf or relax; to look for snakes! His childhood passion and profession are completely intertwined. His parting greeting before he hangs up the phone is “snake it easy.”
For information on Sonoma County Reptile Rescue, including the hotline, visit www.sonomacountyreptilerescue.com.
Photos courtesy of Sonoma County Reptile Rescue