Illegal snakes in home add to increase of smuggled animals

- CLEARFIELD, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Firefighters responding to a house fire discovered several snakes inside, which a reptile expert said is part of an increase of smuggled animals in Utah.

The house fire broke out at a home near 900 East and 1100 South on Friday. Firefighters quickly put out flames, but were rattled when they opened the door to a room full of 25 various snakes.

"It's pretty shocking when you walk into a room full of snakes," Jaime Stell, Lead Officer for Davis County Animal Control, said.

Stell slid into help along with reptile rescuer and exotic animal expert Jim Dix. He said the homeowner is a professional snake breeder.

"He had everything safe inside the house," Dix said of the homeowner. "He was just in violation of having animals without permits."

It is illegal to have poisonous snakes in Utah without a permit. Stell said some of the snakes have been removed from the house.

"The venomous one are going away," she said. "As far as the pythons and boa constrictors it's not illegal to own them so [the owner] is more than welcome to keep them."

The various types of rattlesnakes and a Gaboon Viper, the most dangerous snake found in the home, are being held at a secret location.

Dix rescued one snake, an Albino Western Diamondback.

"The Western Diamondback kills more people than any other native rattlesnake or snake in the area," he said. "It's not native to Utah, but more like Arizona."

Stell and Dix believe the owner shipped the exotic snakes to Utah from out of state. Dix said he is seeing a spike in the smuggling of exotic animals.

"We had an alligator dropped off at Draper Days last week and so we are seeing an increase of illegal animals in Utah," he said.

Dix wants people to shed the illegal practice so neighbors or firefighters aren't startled by an encounter like this one in Clearfield.

He is working with wildlife officials to set up an amnesty day in the next couple of weeks where people can turn in their illegal animals without penalty. A date, time and location have yet to be determined.

Anyone caught with an illegal animal could face a fine.

The investigation in the illegal animals remains open and it is unclear if the owner will be cited.

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