WILFORD, Idaho — The Hepworths knew the house would require some maintenance. But they never thought they'd need a snake charmer.
Shortly after Lyman and Jeanine Hepworth began working on a rundown property outside of town, they experienced a trauma more fit for Samuel L. Jackson's character in "Snakes on a Plane" than a pair of eastern Idaho do-it-yourselfers.
Snakes, perhaps thousands of them, fell on Lyman Hepworth's head when he opened the door to a pump house near the small house the couple planned to buy.
"When it warmed up, we walked onto the yard and the whole yard moved," Jeanine Hepworth told the Rexburg Standard Journal.
One day, Lyman Hepworth reached to turn on a light and discovered the pull cord was actually a snake.
Last March, the Hepworths were having money troubles. Struggling to pay off their medical bills and make house payments, they sold their old home.
They planned to buy a home and a couple of outbuildings from an acquaintance on a few acres outside tiny Wilford.
Then they found the snakes — in the lawn, in the living room and in their hair.
Turns out the property was a winter snake sanctuary, likely a snake den or hibernaculum where snakes gather in large numbers to hibernate for the winter, said Lauri Hanauska-Brown, a biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
In the spring and summer the snakes fan out across the wilds of eastern Idaho, but as the days get shorter and cooler, the snakes return to the resting place — in this case, the Hepworth's new home — where they ball up for heat.
The snakes are likely a terrestrial garter snake, Hanauska-Brown said. Reptiles are a protected species meaning the Hepworths cannot bait them or kill them, she said.
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The couple has not contacted Fish and Game to move the garters, Hanauska-Brown said. The department would attempt to move the snakes, but it could be difficult because if they move them too far they would die and if they move them close by the snakes would likely return to hibernate, she said.
‘That sounds kind of Indiana Jonesish’
"They are used to going there and kind of balling up," Hanauska-Brown told The Associated Press. "That sounds kind of Indiana Jonesish. But this is a natural thing."
The Hepworths never moved in, but Lyman Hepworth's brother is still making payments, though the seller offered to refund their money when he found out about the infestation.
Their plan: They sent a videotape of the house, their children and, of course, the snakes to the producers of "Extreme Home Makeover," in hopes the television show would send its decorators in for a filmed renovation.
The video showed snakes slithering on the back porch, climbing up the foundation and a ball of snakes on the side of the home, Jeanine Hepworth said.
The couple will not find out if the show chooses their reptile refuge for a fix-up challenge until next year.
Meanwhile, summer has turned to fall. And the snakes that have been out for the summer are making their way back to Hepworth's little home in Wilford.
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