LITTLETON, Colo. — Valerie Stuart and her three friends were playing pickleball Thursday morning at a Jefferson County park when they were rudely interrupted by an uninvited guest — a large rattlesnake.
"It's the fastest growing sport in the United States, as everyone is saying now," Stuart said. "But who knew that rattlesnakes wanted to play, right?"
The snake slithered across both tennis courts and into nearby lilac bushes, where it finally settled. Stuart said when she called Jefferson County Animal Control, she was told they were dealing with another snake in Golden, about 40 minutes away from where her group was playing at Robert A. Easton Regional Park.
"We weren't gonna let that snake play pickleball with us," Stuart said.
So the game continued.
"We like to get two hours of pickleball in, so we just kept playing with our eye over there," she said. "You know, it was one of those things."
As the game resumed, the rattlesnake didn't budge from its front-row seat in the bushes — but the ball sometimes wandered close to it.
"Well, yeah, in fact, a couple of times it sort of went over there, and we just leaned way over with our paddle to get the ball because yeah, we did not want to be close to that snake," Stuart said. "Believe me, that was a huge [snake]."
After a while, an Animal Control officer arrived.
"[The officer] had a long pole and the grabber thing and, man, she wasn't afraid. She walked right in there," Stuart said. "And so yeah, she finally wrangled it into a bucket and was going to relocate it into the foothills."
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said the rattlesnake was relocated, which usually happens someplace within 10 miles that is away from people and property.
As for Stuart and her pickleball group, this will definitely be a game for the books.
"You know, you see all sorts of things on the court. But yeah, never, never ever a rattlesnake, let alone a snake period," she said. "And that big of a rattlesnake too. It was pretty scary. All four of us were, well I’m still a little bit rattled by the whole thing, so to speak."
Here are some tips from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) about what to do if you encounter a rattlesnake:
- Freeze in place. Snakes are often heard before they are seen. If you hear a rattlesnake, FREEZE in place until you or a companion can locate the animal. Attempting to move away from a snake you can’t see may lead you closer to it! Even if the snake is in plain view, freezing movement will reduce the threat you pose to the snake and help you calmly assess the situation.
- Seek to establish a safe distance. Rattlesnakes can strike to a distance of half their body length, and a good rule of thumb is to put at least five feet between yourself and the snake. If possible, move slowly back the way you came.
- Leave the snake alone. NEVER, under any circumstances, should you try and catch, kill or provoke a rattlesnake. Fully one-third of people who suffer snakebites were bitten as a result of trying to handle or kill the snake.
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