A Mississippi woman was collecting berries in the woods on Sept. 25 when she came across a venomous snake so rare there really aren't statistics on it.
Now, the blond timber rattlesnake is safe in captivity, and soon the public will be able to see it.
"Me and my friend Matt Brewer and my twin girls were picking up muscadines," said Danielle Ladner of Yazoo County. "I was going to make muscadine jelly.
"We were fixing to leave and loading up, and I bent over to pick up the muscadines and I looked up and there he is — 2 feet from my face at eye level. He was right there."
Ladner said her reaction was terror.
"I don't do good with snakes," Ladner said. "I screamed.
"I'm scared of them. One of my twins is fearless so I went into mama-mode to get her away from it."
Ladner grabbed her adventurous 4-year-old daughter and jumped in the nearby utility vehicle; the other girl was scared and already inside. Ladner said the blond snake was like nothing she'd ever seen and decided to photograph it, even though she could barely hold her phone steady because of her shaking.
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Protecting the rare snake
Ladner said the photos were sent to a herpetologist who explained it was very rare. When she realized what an unusual encounter she was involved in, the animal began to grow on her.
"I spent all Saturday night talking with my daddy about what was best for the snake," she said. "It's not like a normal snake. I didn't want him to die."
Ladner called the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to report the snake and personnel came the following afternoon to find it, but were unsuccessful. After feeling certain it was still in the area, Ladner and her father continued the search and within minutes, it was located and agency personnel returned to retrieve it.
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Snake is not a true albino
Herpetologist Terry Vandeventer of Terry, Mississippi, explained the snake has one of two possible genetic conditions; T positive albinism or hypomelanism. Both cause a limited range of colors in a snake's skin. So, the snake is not a true albino because other colors remain. Regardless of which condition it is, he said the odds of encountering one are so low they can't be calculated.
"It's absolutely a rare thing," Vandeventer said. "Several thousand babies would be born before one pops up."
So, the odds at that point are one in several thousand, but they drop from there because the snake isn't wearing camouflage like its normal siblings and is more susceptible to predation.
"In a normal litter, most don't make it," Vandeventer said. "The vast majority of baby snakes don't make it, but this one did. Nobody knows how rare it is."
Where and when to see the snake
The snake was taken to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson where the cold-blooded reptile received a warm welcome.
"He's very docile," Jamie Merrill, associate conservation biologist with the museum, said. "Since he's been here he hasn't rattled once.
"He's very inquisitive and watches what we do. I'm already in love."
Although it's at the museum, it will be several weeks before the public can see it.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi woman finds blond rattlesnake with rare pigment condition