| SALMON, Idaho
SALMON, Idaho An Idaho home that has been infested with thousands of snakes for at least five years has been put up for sale for $66,000 less than its estimated market value after the recent owners gave up and walked away.
The five-bedroom home in Rexburg, Idaho was taken over last year by the lender, Chase Bank, after the owners left and let it lapse into foreclosure because of the serpents slithering around in the ceilings and walls.
The residents are believed to be common garter snakes, a type found throughout the United States. They are not poisonous and are harmless to humans.
"It's not a problem; it's an infestation," said Todd Davis, associate broker with Realty Quest in Rexburg, who is trying to sell the home. "It's been a horrible experience."
With snake numbers estimated by a pest inspector to be in the thousands, Davis said selling the house for $109,000 -- which compares to an estimated value of $175,000 -- is likely to be an uphill battle.
That battle comes after one-time owners Benjamin and Amber Sessions reenacted the snake takeover on an Animal Planet television episode about infestations that aired earlier this month. The couple could not be reached for comment.
Davis said the Sessions segment and a YouTube video by other owners are the only first hand evidence he has of the reptiles that have labeled the home "Idaho snake house" on blogs and in news accounts.
Davis said he has no reason to disbelieve the accounts of hundreds of snakes sandwiched between the house and its exterior siding and piles of the reptiles in the crawlspace.
"I think the snakes got into a spot and decided to make it their home, now they've invited all their friends," he said.
'I NEED A SNAKE LOVER'
Garters have the widest range among snakes in North America, said Joe Collins, director of the Center for North American Herpetology in Lawrence, Kansas.
Garter snakes, which can grow to be up to 3 feet in length, frequently take up residence in lawns and gardens and are prized by gardeners for feeding on pests like slugs. They are not poisonous pose no threat to people.
Collins said it is likely that the house was built on a snake den site.
"Snakes have a great deal of fidelity to the den site. They're born near there and the animals return each fall to den up and avoid the cold," said Collins, co-author of the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America.
Garters leave pheromone trails that scent the way to a den. Once a whiff of the site has snaked through the garter community, snakes from outlying areas are likely to target the area.
"People always build first and never ask about an area and whether there is a snake den before they do," said Collins. "Afterward, it's too late: the house is there, the snakes are there and people are there. It's a great set up for a wonderful time."
The snakes are not likely to relocate, voluntarily or otherwise.
Even if the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which oversees reptiles in the state, agreed to dislodge the garters, some snakes will remain and reproduce, restarting the cycle, Collins said.
Davis said he is searching for snake-friendly buyers. He said he has every intention of disclosing the snake occupation to prospective purchasers.
"I guess I need a snake lover; either that or someone with multiple mongooses," said Davis.
(Editing by Greg McCune)