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On June 6 he become a permanent resident at the American River Conservancy (ARC), 348 Main St. in Coloma, to be doted over by visitors and staff alike.
“Doting over a snake,” you ask?
In this case, yes, the little fellow had lots of folks pulling for him following a difficult time.
“Our new reptile friend will have the opportunity to teach and inspire ARC visitors about local reptiles, animal adaptations and food chains, and the importance of respecting all wildlife,” said Stephanie McCall, an educator at ARC.
Caddyshack’s relocation to a new home is the culmination of special efforts by several parties and marked a turning point in his life. The last year for him has been a rough one — so rough in fact that there was a likelihood that he would not survive.
Caddyshack’s saga began last fall. In early November, Yolo County Animal Services brought him to Dawn Deberry of West Sacramento. Deberry is a wildlife rescue/rehabilitation volunteer and member of the Northern California Herpetological Society.
“He was underweight and extremely dehydrated; he could have been mistaken for a cord of leather,” said Deberry.
Caddyshack had severe, life-threatening head injuries including a gruesome compound fracture of his lower jaw, most likely caused by a car or bicycle. Under the direction of Dr. Craig Dinger of Midtown Animal Hospital in Sacramento, Deberry started Caddyshack on a regimen of subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics and even painkillers in order to stabilize him for surgery.
Subsequent X-rays, however, revealed the injuries to be far more grievous than expected. When Dinger looked at his patient’s X-rays preparatory to surgery, he was shocked.
“The bones in his head look like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Dinger.
The doctor offered to euthanize the snake after concluding that surgery would be impossible. He also told Deberry that she could continue to give Caddyshack supportive care and let the wounds heal on their own.
Deberry quickly opted for the latter option and took it upon herself to rehabilitate the snake since the surgery option was now off of the table.
After the doctor removed some damaged tissue from the snake, Deberry resumed her task of taking care of Caddyshack which included manually feeding him and continuing to clean and treat his injuries.
Over time Deberry noticed Caddyshack flicking his tongue out of his mouth — a major breakthrough in his recovery. With Deberry’s assistance the snake eventually began to eat and drink on his own.
Each stage of his recovery was a big breakthrough for an animal that was so close to death. Weaned off of all his medications, Caddyshack was taken to the veterinarian for a final once-over and was cleared to take up residency at the conservancy in Coloma.
Against all odds and owing to Deberry’s meticulous care-giving and collaboration with Dinger, Caddyshack is now thriving. He will remain a “special needs” animal for the rest of his days owing to his damaged jaw, which makes it impossible for him to feed on live prey as he would in nature.
Fortunately, though, he can independently take medium-sized pre-killed prey with relative ease. He has been regaining his weight and just shed his skin, which will be kept to show ARC visitors scale patterns and growth.
The ARC personnel have prepared a place for Caddyshack where he can be prominently viewed and help promote the mission to, “Serve our communities by ensuring healthy ecosystems within the Upper American and Upper Cosumnes River watersheds through land conservation, stewardship and education.”
The ARC Nature Center provides a place to learn and explore for children and adults alike, with an average of nearly 4,000 visitor’s per year. The ARC Nature Center is also host to the Conservancy’s Environmental Education programs, including: field trips, home school Tuesdays and summer day camps.
“We know our new gopher snake will be a big hit with visitors. He will live his life as an ambassador of his species,” said McCall.
For more information about the programs and classes at the ARC visit arconservancy.org or call 530-621-1224.