By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — It’s not often Kevin McCurley welcomes new residents like he the ones he has taken in over the past month.
McCurley, the owner of New England Reptile Distributors, received two venomous snakes and an alligator, all brought in by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
“I don’t get these very often,” he said. “I get about one alligator a year and venomous snakes are even rarer than that.”
All three reptiles were found in Newmarket by New Hampshire Fish and Game.
Fish and game officials launched an investigation after they spotted an online advertisement for a prairie rattlesnake. That resulted in the seizure of a prairie rattlesnake and a Mojave rattlesnake. It’s illegal to own rattlesnakes in New Hampshire without a special permit.
Mark Braswell of Newmarket was charged yesterday with two counts of possessing wildlife without a permit and one count of selling wildlife without a permit.
After the snakes were seized on June 12, the Fish and Game Department turned them over to McCurley.
“They’re one of a few places around the state which we have a working relationship with” said Capt. John Wimsatt, conservation officer for the Fish and Game Department. “They need to be in the hands of someone else who is trained to take care of them.”
Wimsatt said venomous snakes are seized about three or four times a year in New Hampshire, but McCurley said he hadn’t received one in two years.
“People used to come in here all the time with the snake in a plastic bag within a box within another box,” he said. “But now, they’re extremely rare.”
McCurley said he keeps the reptiles until they, and uses them for training and education.
“We like to educate people about venomous snakes,” he said. “We will take them to shows and museums, and talk to people about them.”
He said a common misconception is these snakes are out to hurt people.
“They aren’t venomous to hurt you,” he said. “But they can be dangerous. They make for terrible pets.”
McCurley estimated the prairie rattlesnake is 25 inches long, while the Mojave rattlesnake is 30 inches long.
While these venomous snakes are common in the wild in Montana and other western states, it’s extremely rare for anyone to be in possession of them in New Hampshire.
“I’d say there’s only one or two in the entire state,” McCurley said.
Earlier this week, McCurley received an alligator which was captured in a different incident. A resident noticed the 3-foot alligator along the Lamprey River. It was captured by Newmarket police and New Hampshire Fish and Game.
“The average person is ill equipped to handle an alligator, due to its size,” McCurley said.
Alligator ownership, too, requires a special permit. McCurley said he thinks sometimes people do obtain them legally, but as the reptiles grow, they can’t handle them and simply release them.
“They can be maintained while they’re smaller, but when they get bigger people don’t know what to do with them,” he said. “They get released into the wild. They can live out there temporarily, but once it hits 40 degrees, it’s basically a death warrant for them.”