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Rattlesnake issue still lurking

October 18, 2012
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Don Lambert, the gentleman who lives in the Greenbrier area of Lehigh on Richmond Ave., who complained more than three months ago about rattlesnakes from the wooded property next door to his home, says he has had it with the Lehigh Fire District.

"All they did was come out and look and then put small no trespassing signs up. That won't stop kids walking down along the wooded property if a snake were to come out," he said. "Besides the signs don't even mention the rattlesnakes."

He told board members the woods next to his home, which belongs to the Lehigh Ares Fire and Control District, contains rattlesnakes and that they often come out of the woods and brush to sun themselves in his yard and on his driveway. He even found one in his the back of his truck.

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An additional driveway has been built on Don Lambert’s property in an effort to keep rattlesnakes off his property. He also cleared brush on the property’s border.

He has used a handgun to shoot more than he can remember, he said.

The item has been on the agenda each month that fire board commissioners have met since and at the August meeting the board directed the fire chief and his administration to get in touch with the district's insurance company to see whether or not it would be liable if a rattler were to bite someone and what should they do in the situation explained by Lambert.

He said the snakes are killing other small animals in the wooded area such as rabbits, because he has found theirs and other small animal remains. Lambert told commissioners that sometimes when he is near the wooded area, he can hear them moving about.

He says his wife is afraid to even come into their yard and especially at night and that his grandchildren from up north don't want to visit because of the rattlers.

In September, commissioners discussed ways to remedy the situation for the landowner who said he has even offered to buy the lots owned by the fire district. He said he would pay $10,000 for the lot, but fire department officials said when the land was purchased it was almost 10 times that amount. A fire station was planned in the future on the site.

Chief Don Adams told the commissioners the insurance company recommended putting up signs warning people not to trespass on the property.

In the commissioners' packets was an illustration of a large yellow triangular sign warning of rattle snakes. But what was put up was much smaller and it doesn't warn of the danger of snakes.

"By putting up the signs like the insurance company said you should do, it should make it apparent that people should not wander into the property," said Commissioner Larry Becker.

Earlier, Commissioner Linda Carter had suggested that burning off the parcel of wooded land could be a training session for firefighters. But Chief Adams said it would be very expensive to do and that the snakes would return when growth began. There are three other quarter-acre lots adjoining the one in question.

Commissioners were told that staff members have called governmental agencies that may have the ability to assist with the concerns of the rattlesnakes. They also called the exotics reporting hotline and spoke with Gretchen Caudill, a wildlife biologist, who suggested calling a private trapper. In addition, the district contacted Lee County officials and Fish and Wildlife officials or the Agriculture and Natural Resources and Nuisance Wild Life Services.

Their suggestions were all the same that the district should contact a private trapper, which could be expensive.

The staff at the fire department said Bouchare Insurance Co. Vice President Richard Caligiuri suggested putting up "No Trespassing" signs and that staff visit fire district owned properties three to four times a year to ensure that no changes in the lots have occurred which present any increased liability exposure such as abandoned property/vehicles etc. on the lots.

Commissioner Linda Carter said children can't read the signs and that most people in Lehigh ignore such no trespassing signs.

But staff members said signs are posted. The board agreed to approve the signs' purchase.

But Lambert, who lives next door to the property, said he has spent money to build an additional wide driveway hoping it may be more of a barrier to the snakes. He also said that he has paid someone to run down the border of the property and scrape away all the brush, again hoping it would be a deterrent for the snakes to come over onto his property. He said he is also going to pay for a six foot high fence along the border.

"If the snakes come over, I'll continue to use my gun to kill them," he said.



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