Lora Goff drove down Main Street in downtown Warrenton, Va., on her lunch break from a nearby law firm when she heard a rattling sound.
The office manager looked down next to the steering wheel of her Cadillac SRX and saw a snake slithering out of the air vent. Trying to stay calm, she pulled off the road, jumped out of the SUV and dialed 911.
And like anyone these days who has a unique event unfold before them, she snapped a picture: “I thought, ‘Nobody’s going to believe this.’ ”
When animal control arrived, the officer confessed that he, too, was scared of snakes.
“I said, ‘I’m in trouble now,’ ” Goff recalled of her Monday incident.
The snake, which she later estimated to be about 2½-feet long, had gotten tangled in her phone cord charger.
“At first,” she said, “I was in disbelief. I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ ”
“The thing that caught my attention is it made a noise. That’s when I saw it coming out,” she said.
Goff said the animal control officer tried to use a piece of equipment, similar to a long pole, to catch the snake but couldn’t. Then the snake came farther out of the air vent and started to move around the car. It then fell down under the front seat.
“He looked and looked and looked,” Goff said of the animal control officer, “and he couldn’t find it.”
By then, she said, her lunch break was over and she needed to get back to work, so she drove back to her office with the snake still somewhere in her SUV. When she got back to the office, she said, she told her colleagues, and they suggested a variety of techniques: Turn the air conditioning on cold so it would come out on the seat and sun itself. Turn the air on hot so it would come out.
Goff searched the Internet and found a tip that said to use sticky glue traps for rodents. She borrowed a friend’s car, went to a nearby hardware store, got some and put them under her seat. She worked her full day, and by 5 p.m. she went out to her car.
As she was driving home, she said, she kept moving her feet and making noise in the hope of keeping it from coming out.
She checked the traps and found no sign of the snake. Although she said she was scared that the snake was still in her car, she drove it — nervously, she said — the 10 minutes to her home in Rappahannock County.
Overnight, she said, she didn’t think about it. The next morning, she and her husband went outside to check and found the snake. It was stuck to the glue pad but not dead.
Her husband threw it in the back of his truck, Goff said. What he did with it, she said, she doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know.
“I don’t want to see that thing anymore,” she said.
Her tale of the snake encounter was first reported by other outlets, including Fauquier Now and Fox 5.
On Wednesday, officials with the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office said one of its animal control officers responded to the call. At the time, they thought it was a garter snake but no one got a good up-close look at it. Garter snakes are often seen in the area in the spring.
After seeing photos of the snake, three snake and wildlife experts said they believe it was likely a juvenile black rat snake. Young black rat snakes are typically mottled, while older ones are usually black, according to Susan Jewell, a herpetologist and wildlife expert at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Juvenile black rat snakes are common in the region, the experts said, and are nonvenomous and harmless. Experts said such snakes are often good for a garden area where they can eat insects and small rodents once they are bigger.
Sgt. James Hartman, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said that while the department does get “snake calls from time to time,” it is typically about a snake at or near a home or in a barn or shed.
“It’s rare that it comes from someone who is driving down the road, and a snake comes out of the air vent,” Hartman said.
Of the snake in the SUV, Hartman said, the recent heavy rains meant the snake was probably looking for a dry spot for refuge and a “nice warm car was a good place to go.” He said it likely crawled into the car’s hood overnight, as an engine often stays warms for a while.
He said the animal control officer who responded was probably “more afraid of the snake” than Goff was, “even though he’s in the animal control business.”
Goff wasn’t the only one in the region to encounter a snake.
In Laurel, the police department has posted photos of its snake encounters. One of its officers helped a family after they found a snake near their home. The family wrote and the department posted on Facebook, “Thank you to officer E.X. Eagle for,” saving “the day … and the snake too :).”
And that same officer in Laurel had also helped in late May in an incident on Haynes Road where there was a report of “an unwelcome guest.”
It turned out, according to the department, that it was a baby Maryland brown snake. It was found hiding under a bucket in a family’s living room. The police officer safely took the snake to a park and released it “without incident,” according to the department’s Facebook page.
The department warned, “because of recent storms, keep an eye out for small creatures looking for a dry place to hide them from the rain.”
As for Goff, she’s no stranger to wildlife. Living in a rural area, she said, her family has seen “critters chewing on wires” or squirrels trying to hide their nuts in car engines but never a snake in a car.
She said, “I never thought in my wildest dreams something like this would happen.”