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19 rattlesnakes removed from California family's plastic playhouse

By Ben Hooper

Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A California couple summoned animal control to their children's backyard playhouse to remove a scary sight: 19 rattlesnakes.

Amanda Friedrick of the College Heights neighborhood in Ridgecrest said she and her husband heard a rattling noise in their yard Wednesday and initially thought they had a loose pipe, until they spotted an adult rattlesnake poking its head out from their children's plastic playhouse.

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"It was really scary," Friedrick told the Ridgecrest Daily Independent Thursday morning. "Our kids had just played there and it's right by our door."

She said her husband kept watch on the snake and guarded it with a shovel while the couple waited for an animal control officer.

Ridgecrest Police Department Animal Control Officer Shawna Villa-Rodriguez said she was attempting to grab the rattlesnake when she discovered that it wasn't alone.

"That's when I noticed one small baby in the play gym and I know they just don't have one," Villa-Rodriguez said.

She said she ended up capturing a total 18 babies, as well as the mother sidewinder rattlesnake, over the course of about an hour. She said each baby was about 4 inches long.

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"The mother [Friedrick] was concerned because her child had been playing in the gym," Villa-Rodriguez said.

The officer said the snake family was released into the desert outside the city limits.

"If you are living in the desert, you should make sure to check your child's toys," Villa-Rodriguez said. "Perhaps have solid play gym like the wood ones."

She said wooden play structures, as opposed to hollow plastic playhouses, don't give the snakes an opportunity to make their way into tight spaces and nest.

Villa-Rodriguez warned residents to be extra vigilant this time of year, which is mating season for the rattlesnakes.

"If you hear the rattle but can't see it, try to spot it and slowly back away until you're out of the area," Villa-Rodriguez said.

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