Reptile wrangler wild about snakes

Al Wolf’s cellphone rings. He listens. He nods. He hangs up. “Rattlesnake at Bishop Ranch,” he tells assistant Laurie Osborne. “I’ll get this one.” He grabs the snake stick and keys to his pickup.

Al Wolf’s cellphone rings. He listens. He nods. He hangs up.

“Rattlesnake at Bishop Ranch,” he tells assistant Laurie Osborne. “I’ll get this one.”

He grabs the snake stick and keys to his pickup.

“Weather’s heating up; they’re starting to come out. Oh, but first we gotta get the monitor out of the truck,” he says, then adds an afterthought: “He’s a little aggressive.”

So Wolf grabs the monitor – a fat, long, wildly flailing lizard -– and sticks him, under great protest, in a wooden box. But the pair of rattlesnakes already in the backseat? They can come along for the ride.

Wolf, a retired San Francisco Zoo manager, has devoted his life to saving reptiles, most recently through his nonprofit Sonoma County Reptile Rescue.

At no charge, he contracts with 15 Northern California counties, most in the Bay Area, to take in pythons, corn snakes, turtles and other cold-blooded critters in need of rescuing. He finds new homes for nearly all of them, although at any given time his rural Sebastopol house contains hundreds of slithering, hissing, spitting reptiles awaiting their destiny.

“I love rattlesnakes,” Wolf said as he drove along Sonoma County’s winding country roads to Bishop’s Ranch, a rural retreat near Healdsburg, on the rattlesnake call. “To me, they’re so majestic. So poised. They have so much control when they hunt, when they move.”

Animal shelters often deliver reptiles to him or ask his assistance in rescuing stubborn, cranky or unusually large specimens. He also receives a dozen or so frantic calls a day from people who find rattlesnakes in their yards.

Each week, Wolf rustles up 30 to 40 unwanted rattlesnakes and releases them on a remote, unpopulated hillside in northern Sonoma County.

That’s the destination for the very irritated rattlesnake Wolf finds at Bishop’s Ranch. A quick-witted gardener had found the snake next to a building an hour or so earlier and used a stick to herd it into a plastic garbage bin. By the time Wolf arrived, a small crowd had gathered to watch the excitement.

Wolf grabbed it with his two-pronged snake stick and got a close look. Very close. The snake lashed its forked tongue at him, spitting venom while trying to writhe free from the clamp.

“Yeah, he needs to settle down a few days,” Wolf said. “Then we’ll release him.”

Bishop’s Ranch Director Sean Swift was happy to see the rattler head down the hill in Wolf’s pickup.

“We love snakes here, but we don’t want rattlesnakes near where people go,” he said. “He’ll find a good home for it.”

Wolf has been a snakeophile since he was a kid in Fairfax, Calif. King snakes, gopher snakes, garter snakes – all found a home with him.

But then he discovered big snakes. Snakes that can kill people. Snakes that live in jungles.

Snakes you order by the foot from reptile magazines.

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

Update: Buccaneers win 38-13 in final home game

Bucs off to the finals with the win

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month