A Lehigh Acres man who lives next to properties owned by the Lehigh Acres Fire and Control District is upset about what he calls a parcel next to him that is filled with poisonous rattlesnakes.
"I've killed lots of them and they are everywhere," he told the Lehigh Acres fire board of commissioners, which had officially ended its meeting when Bob Lambert, who had been patiently waiting in the audience to plead for help.
The meeting held on July 24 at the fire department's station on 16th St., just off Sunshine Blvd. North in Lehigh.
Bob Lambert is ready with his .45 caliber gun to kill invading rattlesnakes.
Lambert, who lives in the Greenbrier section of Lehigh on Richmond Ave., said he understood the property was owned by the fire department. It is thick with brush and pines and Lambert said if he throws a rock into the lot, you can hear the movement of the snakes. How many are in the lot? Nobody knows, but Lambert says there could be hundreds if adjacent lots are taken into consideration. An adjacent lot is also owned by the fire district, Lambert said.
Because the meeting had ended, little attention was given to Lambert, except that the board said it would take it up at the next meeting. But Lambert says he doesn't want to wait until the next time the board meets in mid-August.
He brought two color photographs with him to show two snakes that he had killed.
"One of the snakes I killed a few weeks ago was three to four inches wide at its head," he said.
Those still standing around in the audience following the meeting were surprised when he first said the lot was filled with rattlesnakes.
Fire Chief Don Adams was at the board meeting but didn't make a public comment since the session had ended. He had not returned calls as of the beginning of the weekend to be asked what action that the fire department may take, if any, to get rid of the rattlesnakes. The chief has the authority to take care of the problem before the board meets again.
Later at home, Lambert showed the lot next to his house. It was overgrown with thick vegetation. There was a pile of cinder blocks piled up near the lot.
"I had lined them down the side of the lot, hoping that it would keep the snakes out of my yard. I even put poison on them and when that didn't work, I used motor oil down the side of the lot, hoping that would prevent the snakes from coming out of the thicket," Lambert said.
The matter is not trivial to Lambert and his wife. She won't come outside into the yard because she is afraid, he said.
Lambert also said neither of them will walk outside at night, not unless he has a strong flashlight to scan the area.
"They can be anywhere. On some days, they come out onto my yard to sun themselves. They roll themselves up and if you get anywhere near them, they'll raise up and you can hear that rattling sound. They can even jump at you. So I keep my distance, but I keep my eyes open all the time," he said.
Lambert and his wife are upset because they have grandchildren that live in Atlanta and according to him, they are afraid to even visit.
"That's pretty upsetting to us," he said.
He said once a plumber had been on his property working on equipment outside his house near the back when a rattlesnake hiding behind the water tank jumped at him. Lambert said the guy ran and said he wasn't coming back.
"It's that bad," he said.
Last week during a visit to Lambert's house, he showed his .45 caliber gun that he uses now to kill the snakes when they are at the edge of the wooded property and when they are on his land.
"I'll take 'em out," he said.
On his cell phone, he had taken a photograph of a snake that had gotten into the back of his truck.
"We can't keep the garage doors open because the snakes will go in there. I only have them open if I am outside sitting in a lawn chair so I can see," he said.
Lambert says he has even offered to buy the lot at a reasonable price but the fire department had shown no interest. He believe the land was purchased years ago for the possibility of building a fire station there, but he said nobody on the street would want a fire department next to their home. The neighborhood has comfortable well-trimmed yards and homes. But there are several large homes that are empty and half-built, because the builder went broke when the recession hit, Lambert said.
The house across the street is one of the homes not finished. It is surrounded by high weeds and Lambert said he has seen homeless people go inside the house some nights for cover.
"I know they shouldn't be on that property," he said. "But I go over there and tell them about the rattlesnakes and they better be careful and I tell them not to start any fires," he said.
"I just want the fire department to do something."
When Lambert showed photos of two of the dead snakes he had killed at the fire board meeting, one of the firefighters looking on said he thought a controlled burn would solve the problem. That could be a solution maybe if the perimeter of the area is burned first.
"Those snakes have got to go. I haven't heard anything from the fire department. I have called the county and I have called whoever I thought could help and everyone keeps telling me to call the fire department and that is their responsibility to solve the problem.
In the meantime, Lambert says he takes his daily walks around the yard to check for snakes and if he sees one, he pulls out his gun and shoots. Then before you know it, you see another one and maybe it has come out of the woods to sun itself. You have to be vigil and keep your eyes open," he said.
"And going all into the yard at night, well don't even think about it because it is too dangerous," he said.