Police decapitate 6-foot snake

Erik Potter

Mark Fitton turned to go back into the house on Lady Slipper Road and take out the last load of material after finishing a kitchen remodeling job.

He put one foot up on the stairs leading from the garage to the entryway, let out a yell and jumped back.

On the steps was a 6-foot snake, a black racer, standing 3 feet in the air, shaking its tail and darting upward toward Fitton’s head.

Fitton is afraid of wasps and hornets, so his boss, Geoffrey Bassett, thought that’s what had startled him.

“Mark, cut it out,” he told him.

But when he saw the reptile, he quit teasing and called animal control.

About 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Bridegewater’s part-time animal control officer had already left for the day, so a police officer responded.

Black racers are the only large, black, smooth-scaled snake in New England, according to the University of Massachusetts.

Adults generally reach 3 to 5  feet in length but can get as long 73 inches.

They are not venomous and normally flee from danger. They can be aggressive when cornered, rustling dry leaves with their tails and biting repeatedly. When captured, they writhe, defecate and spray musk in an attempt to escape.

It took about eight minutes for police to respond to the home.

The snake had by that time fled the garage and hid in a nearby bush.

Out of fear for the four children living in the house, Bassett said, the three men decided to kill the snake.

Basset said the officer used a 6-foot angle iron, an L-shaped metal bar used in construction, that they found in the garage to knock the snake out of the bush. He then hit it several times with the bar until the head dangled from the body. Using a hand saw to remove the head, the men placed the carcass in a construction bag and put the bag in the trunk of the police cruiser.

Bridgewater police were not immediately available for comment.

“In an instance like that, if (the snake) is in the open ... we just tell people to stay away from it and let it go about its way,” dispatcher Lance Wager of the Massachusetts Environmental Police said. “When people are around it, that’s where you get the aggressive behavior. ... The moment you give it space, it’s going to go wherever it was headed to begin with. ... Just don’t bother it, and it won’t bother you.”

Wagner said there are no hard-and-fast rules governing what an officer should do in such a situation.

“It’s a judgment call, absolutely. Especially if there’s pets around and people can get injured,” Wagner said. “It’s a fast snake. It’s quick. They are a little bit more aggressive than your average garter snake. You’d be best to stay away.”

The Enterprise