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Repairer Reports Roaming Reptile

B.C. repair technician finds more than he bargained for while working on a car.

by Rene Young

Mike Stewart retrieved the snake from the engine compartment

“There’s a big snake in there,” he exclaimed, “and I’m not going back to work on that car until it’s gone!”

Imagine you are working under the hood of a car when you spot something in the corner of your eye that doesn’t quite look like it should be there. That is what happened while Dale Tissong, a collision repair technician at Kelowna Performance Collision in Kelowna B.C., was working on a vehicle.

While removing the battery on a 2019 Honda Ridgeline, Tissong, a foreign worker technician from South Africa, noticed something in a small space deep inside the engine compartment. As soon as he realized what he was looking at, he dropped everything and went to see his supervisor, Ron Schurink, to report it.

“There’s a big snake in there,” he exclaimed, “and I’m not going back to work on that car until it’s gone!”

Schurink went out to the vehicle to see what Tissong was talking about. Sure enough, a five-foot long bullsnake had decided to set up camp around the engine of the vehicle.

Due to their similar size and colour, someone unfamiliar with the species might easily mistake bullsnakes for rattlesnakes. Both species are common in British Columbia’s Okanagan region.

“There’s a big snake in there,” he exclaimed, “and I’m not going back to work on that car until it’s gone!”
Mike Stewart gets acquainted with the unexpected visitor.

Bullsnakes, a subspecies of the gopher snake, are nonvenomous constrictors and average four to six feet in length, but specimens as long as eight feet have been recorded. Their diet consists of small mammals, such as mice, moles, rats, pocket gophers, ground squirrels, and rabbits, as well as ground-nesting birds, birds’ eggs, and lizards.

Neither Tissong nor Schurink were certain this was not a rattlesnake, so they were reluctant to get too near it. That’s when fellow Kelowna Performance Collision technician Mike Stewart stepped in. Stewart is from the area and is familiar with these reptiles.

Bullsnakes are nonvenomous constrictors.

“Give me a minute,” said Stewart, as he got down on the ground and wiggled underneath the front end of the Ridgeline. A few moments later, Stewart came out from under the car and got back to his feet, snake in hand. He explained to the others what species this was, and, to the relief of everyone, that they are generally docile and harmless.

After playing with the unexpected visitor for a little while, and taking some photos, they let it go in a nearby field, and the shop was able to carry on, business as usual.

Photos: Levi Guidi