Dozens of snakes saved from well before it was destroyed - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dozens of snakes saved from well before it was destroyed

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

An Eastern Iowa man came across a slithery surprise while working on rebuilding an old farm. He uncovered an old and unused well where he found a pit of snakes.

The well was supposed to be demolished but he didn't want the snakes to be killed during the process. Instead, he reached out for help and got connected with Don Becker from Cedar Rapids to help with removing them.

Don Becker knows his snakes, so much so that he's been given the nickname the "snake man". Becker volunteers much of his free time helping conservation efforts and the Department of Natural Services. Even his full-time job involves snakes. He's a chief technology officer for HerpMapper, a non-profit website dedicated to gathering and sharing information about reptile and amphibian observations.

For Becker, it was no big deal to descend into a bed of snakes below to help remove them. He said it's not unusual for snakes to make a home in something like an unused well. He was told to expect 14 snakes.

"I knew there was going to be some more, some where, but I didn't think we'd find as many as we did," Becker said.

Instead, he found a whole lot more than that. Piles of snakes were laying inside the stone walls and some were in pipes.

"We were finding more and more snakes with every hole we opened," he said.

In total, 49 snakes were pulled out. A majority are Western Foxes but 11 were Blue Racers, were are not venomous. All 49 of the snakes are now at Becker's home, tucked away in a dark and cool closet in a plastic tub where they live undisturbed.

"This is essentially the conditions they would be in, in the wild, in that well," Becker said.

According to Becker, the snakes needed to be removed from the well and the wild. That's why they'll temporarily be at his home. Iowa law requires a permit to take animals out of the wild, that's where Becker came in to help. 

"Sitting out they wouldn't have survived the winter or two they would have just tried to go right back into the well and it's going to get collapsed in and they're going to die anyway," he said.

All to often, Becker said, that people find out a well was filled with snakes after it was caved in. He said it was a surprise that someone would reach out for help because though legally snakes can't be removed from their environment, a landowner legally could cave in a well on them. He said this is something he wants urge people to think differently about.

"Snakes help with rodent control. It obviously helps with your crops and your grain bins. It's something I wish more farmers in Iowa understood so he did not want to risk losing a bunch of snakes," he said.

Come spring, all the snakes will be returned to the farmland.

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