WAGONER— Dustin Dorr spent the past eight years in law enforcement sharpening his skills to stay calm in the midst of fear. As a major with the Wagoner County sheriff’s office, bravery factors into his ability to resolve conflict, he said.
But when Dorr received a call late Tuesday, it was enough to make his skin crawl — or more accurately, slither.
Dorr’s assistance was requested in the wrangling and transport of a 15-foot Burmese python discovered in the backyard of a couple’s home in Toppers near Fort Gibson Lake.
“Of course they call me because they know I’m afraid of snakes,” Dorr said. “I’m just glad it wasn’t hungry.”
Dorr’s initial fears were mostly settled when he arrived at the residence as another deputy and the homeowners had managed to place the python into a plastic bucket sealed shut with duct tape. Dorr, a lifelong resident of Wagoner County, knew a man in the area who had owned large snakes in the past.
Dorr contacted the man, who said he woke up Tuesday to find his python missing with the screws on the latch of its tank pulled out. Dorr and the other deputy delivered the uninjured python back home.
In pictures and video provided by the sheriff’s office, Dorr is seen holding and moving the snake as it was released to its owner. About 20 minutes after first making contact with the python, Dorr said his snake fear began to wear off.
“You could tell (the python) really didn’t care about harming anybody,” Dorr said. “He was just wanting to do his thing.”
Pythons aren’t native to Oklahoma, but several types of snakes inhabiting the state present potential danger to some residents.
Stanley Fox, a regents professor in the zoology department at Oklahoma State University, said springtime weather brings many species of snakes out of hibernation and into mating season. There are seven types of venomous snakes found in Oklahoma: five species of rattlesnakes, the cottonmouth and the copperhead. Each is classified as a pit viper because of a heat-sensing pit organ that allows them to detect warm-blooded prey, Fox said.
Of those venomous snakes, the largest are the diamondback and timber rattlesnakes, which can grow up to six feet long and as wide as a man’s arm, Fox said.
“In eastern Oklahoma, there are more venomous snakes than the rest of the state,” Fox said. “Especially the cottonmouth, which is very common.”
Fox said to seek immediate medical attention from a professional if you are bitten by a snake and begin feeling a reaction.
“No longer do they recommend cutting and sucking out the venom or anything like that,” Fox said. “You simply must get to the hospital as quick as you can.”
Fox said awareness is the best tool for preventing snake bites. When in wilderness areas, he suggests not placing hands or feet in unseen spaces.
The python sighting in Wagoner County is extremely rare, Fox said, and only possible when a domesticated species escapes a home. But that doesn’t mean a snake of that size couldn’t inflict serious damage or even loss of life if not captured.
“It could kill, or possibly even eat, a baby,” Fox said. “They kill by constriction and they swallow their prey whole.”