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Odds & Ends Around the Valley


Snakes Alive

A nearsighted Chatsworth woman recently went out on her condominium patio to water the plants. She was somewhat startled to see--albeit fuzzily, without her glasses--what appeared to be mushrooms growing up the base of one of her flowering plants.

She fetched her specs and returned for a better look. There, coiled around the stem of the bush, was an adult rattlesnake sunning himself in the bougainvillea.

One day last summer, a West Hills couple welcomed friends to Sunday brunch. When it came time for everyone to go into the dining room, the hostess pulled open the draperies and there, snuggled up in a sunny spot, was a rattler who had crawled through an open sliding glass door during the night.

In both cases a call to the North Hollywood Animal Care and Control Center brought out Dennis Kroeplin, the city of Los Angeles' only wildlife officer assigned to the Valley.

"Between mid-April and mid-October, the rattlers are most active," Kroeplin said. "They are usually found near a new housing development where they had previously had homes, particularly if the area is close to a brush-covered hillside."

Every year Kroeplin receives dozens of calls asking him to remove snakes from back yards--or sometimes houses--but many times, he said, the "rattlers" are not rattlers at all.

"There are a lot of gopher, racer, king and garter snakes out there too," he said. "They are harmless and may, in fact, help with pest control."

Kroeplin said the easiest way to tell if a snake is a rattler is if it has--well, a rattle.

"At the end of the tail there is a light-colored, scaly tip that identifies all rattlesnakes," he said, adding that the only kind of rattlers in the Valley are the Southern Pacific type, which do not have diamond shapes on their backs like some other rattlers.

"People seem to be terribly afraid of rattlesnakes, but the snakes will only attack humans if they feel threatened," he said.

"If you are out hiking and come across one, just calmly back away from it. If you see one on or near your property, just calmly walk away and call the nearest animal control office.

"If you are bitten by a rattler, call 911, or drive to the nearest hospital that has anti-venom serum and is equipped to deal with snakebites," he said.

If you don't know where the nearest hospital is, it might be a good idea to find out, he said.

Go Figure

Especially these days, it doesn't pay to bounce checks. Not only creditors and banks get hostile, but the local police or the district attorney might want to have a chat with the check bouncer.

"People who bounce checks can be in big trouble," said Detective Dan Mena of the San Fernando Police Department forgery unit. "People who try to defraud through checks may be looking at a heavy fine and hard time."

Because hard economic times are indeed upon us, law enforcement agencies are hearing about bad checks more often. Should you get a letter from police, Mena said, don't try to run or hide.

"A lot of people who are bouncing checks these days are victims themselves," he said. "They mail out their rent or car payment, or cash a check at the store, thinking the money will be in the bank by the time the check clears. Then something happens--like they get laid off or their paycheck bounces--and people tend to panic." Especially if they hear from the police.

Mena said he tries to sort out the intent of the check bouncer and acts accordingly. If someone is deliberately trying to defraud, it can get ugly. If someone has just made a mistake, Mena will try to help.

He tries to determine when the check will be made good. If the check bouncer is in genuine financial difficulty, Mena sometimes will try to mediate a payment schedule between creditor and debtor.

"If I look at the person's bank records and his or her story rings true, I will work with that person," said Mena, who has a degree in accounting.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office also has a new program for bad-check passers in which the offender, after paying off the debt, goes to school to learn how to balance a checkbook.

R-Rated Gorilla

Do you recall the episode of "L.A. Law" in which Michael Kuzak--dressed in a gorilla suit--rescued Grace Van Owen just as she was about to marry some yuppie?

Remember the episode in which Michael sent a balloon bouquet to Gracie with a delivery man wearing the gorilla suit?

Do you think this kind of monkeying around is something you'd like to ape?

If you're in the market for these types of monkeyshines and you live in Palmdale, you're in business. Or rather the Tedeskis are, through their Class Act Productions.

Rex Tedeski, an electrician, has moonlighted for the past four years as a stripping gorilla. Beginning with a bow tie and the Fruit of the Looms, he bares all in the finale, becoming a naked ape.

For $55, Tedeski will put on his hairy suit and do almost anything, the sillier the better, he said. The only time he hates going ape is when it's 100 degrees outside and about 140 degrees inside the suit.

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