Jan 12, 2024

Wildlife Center Staff Saves Snake: A Special Serpentine Story

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An adult Common Garter Snake was admitted to DCHS's Wildlife Center with a fish hook embedded in its side. Read how staff worked to save this snake.

On September 1st, 2023, Common Garter Snake #23-1671 was admitted after it had swallowed a very large fishing hook. How did we know? The sharp tip of the hook was immediately visible — it had punctured out from the snake’s body.

This shocking injury was concerning because the snake’s organs were impacted, and we did not know how well they would heal. Our Certified Veterinarian Technician (CVT) staff sedated the snake to remove the hook and our partnered veterinarians from the UW-Madison Wildlife and Zoo Medicine Program sutured the wound closed. We tube-fed the snake a liquid diet during the healing process and started a course of antibiotics, hoping they would do well.

Top photo (by Volunteer Lesley Haven): Common Garter Snake #23-1671 recovers in a cage in our Reptile Recovery Center at DCHS's Wildlife Center. Above: Common Garter Snake #23-1671 with a hook and large wound open to the coelom (left). Radiographs taken on September 1st show how deeply the hook was embedded in the tissue and into the side of its body.

A few days later, under direction from our team of veterinarians, we performed a barium study to verify the GI tract was healing appropriately. We gave the snake barium orally, and took x-rays twice a day for five days, to see if the material would pass through without any abnormalities. To everyone’s relief, everything looked normal! This snake miraculously survived, and even thrived, which would not have been possible without the care it received.

Sarah Karls is a Senior Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator

Common Garter Snake #23-1671 anesthetized for surgery.

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