The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured a diamondback rattlesnake in Jacksonville Beach Monday morning from a homeless man was spotted walking with the snake wrapped around his neck.
“He apparently sometime this morning found the snake and was walking around our downtown area with it, prompting several calls from concerned citizens,” Jacksonville Beach Police Sgt. Larry Smith said.
The homeless man told police he was familiar with how to properly handle snakes and was not bitten or injured in any way.
“Sounded like he may have been doing a little show and tell down there with the snake,” Smith said.
Police received at least three complaints about the man carrying the snake, including from a City employee who was able flag down officers.
They caught up with him near the Best Western Hotel.
Officers told the man to put the snake into the back seat of the patrol vehicle until FWC arrived.
“He says that he found it and God compelled him to keep him safe from traffic,” Smith said.
A family who was staying at the Best Western said they noticed the man walk by with the snake around his neck.
“It caught all our attention because is wasn’t wrapped around like somebody with a boa,” Joe Leonard said.
Officers explained they received several complaints about the homeless man walking around the downtown area with the rattler.
They found him with the snake in a public parking area.
Police said the man claimed he found the snake slithering along the road side and God compelled him to save the serpent.
Kaylie Leonard said, “All of a sudden I just saw police and he was just staring at him yelling ‘put the snake in the car’ and the guy just still had it wrapped around his head.”
According to officers the man put the snake in the back of the patrol vehicle where it stayed until Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collected it.
Joe said, “They were terrified and scared – staying as far away as they could from the car.”
A spokesperson with FWC said the man is lucky he wasn’t bitten.
Police said the man who was carrying the snake won’t be charged.