Chipa Wolfe handling a rattlesnake.
By Bettina Huseby
If you live close to nature, critters may visit you in weird and wacky ways. Luckily for us, Chipa Wolfe is around. He’s the “critter-getter” who sets things right when things go wrong.
It’s a puzzle what might show up on your porch. Among other things, we share this region with American black bears, deer, raccoons and various pit-viper snakes. He can usually make an ID over the telephone by narrowing the field with questions like, does it have a tail? How many legs do you see? And, can you hear it rattling?
It might be handy to keep Chipa on speed dial. His number is 678-234-8719.
He and his family share their east Pickens land with a pretty paint horse, a buffalo named Thunder, several rescued dogs, two rattlesnakes and a calico cat. I wore my knee-high Wellies in morbid fear of snakes and cow patties, but noticed Chipa’s feet were clad in tennis shoes with little, individual toe compartments that he calls “water moccasins.”
A country boy at heart, his face is a fine study of French - Cajun and Cherokee heritages. His favorite designation is “earthling,” which is a broad enough category to include us all; man or beast. Although he’s quite fit, Chipa hesitated to reveal his exact age. When pressed, he mumbled a number along the lines of, “Ffffffifffty-ish.”
Thunder the Buffalo goes with him on visits to schools and outdoor festivals. These are “edutainment events” or opportunities for learning and having fun. So critter catching is not his main line, but he’s ready with cages and equipment in case someone has a wild animal emergency.
Bear sightings are up, because between mid-July and Autumn there is a food source lull. Gone are the sweet berries of spring and early summer. And it’s a long while until acorns begin to fall. The bears are hungry, and a hungry bear is an opportunist.
It takes little prodding to get a story out of Chipa. One involves an exasperated Amicalola client. Bears were so smitten with her Subaru; they’d broken out the windows three different times. One night she called Chipa to report a bear was standing on the car.
So Chipa went through the list of preventatives to see what they’d missed: He’d wrapped her yard with electric fencing and gotten rid of food sources like bird feeders and trash cans. His investigation revealed that the fence wasn’t turned on. In addition, the Subaru was parked outside its protective cloak. Plus, there was a big bag of dog food in the trunk!
Another client had a bear inside his chicken coop. Chipa’s advice was to feed chickens away from the house and make sure the coop’s door stays closed at all times. An open door is an invitation.
He said, “Because of the food lull with berries and acorns, bears are on the move. They keep themselves in check pretty good, but we have to make an effort not to entice them. Try not to leave anything edible lying around.” He says if you really, really love American black bears and want to supplement their natural diet of larva, field mice and insects, try dumping raw peanuts in remote areas, (away from people) for them to find. You don’t want them to associate people with food and begin to show up on porches and such. This type of imprinting is dangerous for the bears and for us too. An imprinted bear is a “short-lived bear.”
For snake sightings, Chipa has a long stick called a “gaff” to safely snag them up. He removes and relocates them to a remote area. It’s obvious that he loves snakes with a warm, fuzzy feeling deep down inside. It’s a level of affection most of us don’t share.
“Snakes are noble creatures who have a job to do in nature, and they are very efficient at it,” he explained.
I watched him slide several heavy rocks off the rattlesnake tank’s lid. Disturbed, they began to move. Their tail-ends vibrated in a rattling, low-hum noise. He waved me to step back as he brought out the first long fellow and dropped him neatly into a carrier box. The second rattler was kind enough to ssssssssmile for my camera.
“My Brother’s Keeper” Animal Rescue Wildlife Relations and Rattlesnake Removal and bear-proofing services are provided on a donations-only basis.