Kentucky woman finds rattlesnake under wheelchair seat

July 3, 2020 GMT

MURRAY, Ky (AP) — A woman travelling in a motorized wheelchair near a Kentucky Walmart discovered a rattlesnake under her seat on Sunday, the Murray Ledger & Times reported.

Officer Chris Garland said the woman “just happened to look down and saw the head right under her. She was still on the chair when we arrived. She couldn’t move, and I guess that was from being scared. Come to think of it, I probably would’ve froze too.”

Murray Police Department officers killed the snake after they helped the woman out of her wheelchair and got the rattler on the ground.

“We tried to contact someone who might have been able to have picked it up, but when we finally did find somebody, they were too far away from Murray,” Garland said.

John Hewlett, a Murray State University graduate researcher, told the paper the snake was probably not local to the area.

“If I had to bet everything on it, somebody caught it and turned it loose in the parking lot (of Walmart) or somewhere else in the city,” Hewlett said. “The chance of there being a population of timber rattlesnakes within 15 miles of Murray is exceedingly low.”

Hewlett said the closest likely population of the timber rattlesnake would be southeastern Calloway County near the Tennessee border, even there the population would be small.

Unlike more common snakes like Copperheads, timber rattlesnakes like the one found Sunday do not normally seek out interaction with humans, Hewlett said. They also help keep a local rodent population under control, and are not likely to bite humans.

“In my research, I’ve come to see that venom production is the most metabolically costly biological process for an adult rattlesnake, so it would much prefer to discharge that venom on the prey than on a human.”