Crystal Gilbert used to be terrified of snakes but now the Snake Whisperer — as she’s known to friends — owns 12, many of which are rescues and it’s not cheap.
Her fiancé Les Temple wanted a snake for a pet, and one day Gilbert surprised him with their first.
That was four years ago, she’s since become so good at taking care of snakes, Gilbert said she has even trained some of them to only poop on paper.
Gilbert has tricks to tame snakes. She scent-trains them by putting a worn shirt in their cage so they get used to her smell, and eventually see her as “a piece of furniture. The more regular their surroundings are, the calmer they’re going to be.”
While Gilbert and Temple love rescuing snakes, it’s getting expensive.
It currently costs $60 a week to feed all 12 snakes, but as the snakes grow larger — the boa constrictors are expected to grow up to 10 feet long — it’ll be $120 a week. Almost as much as their rent, Temple jokes.
Then there’s the heaters, hides, huts, water bowls, and tanks. Temple builds his own snake huts.
To offset the costs, Gilbert makes fully-beaded dreamcatchers, which she sells at the Museum of Northern B.C. or for custom orders. The former owners of Paws and Claws found several tanks for the snakes, and Leeann’s Pet Shop has helped with advice and finding new homes for the snakes.
One of their snakes, Anarchy, is moving to Kitimat next week with a new owner. Gilbert said the couple is always available to help.
“We stick with the new parents for as long as we need them. They can call us for any advice, anything at all. We’ll rush over and we’ll help.”
Any money they earn from rehoming a snake goes to feed the other snakes in their care.
So what is it about snakes that helped them slither into Gilbert’s heart?
They’re surprisingly calm and cuddly. She said the snakes have a similar effect as service pets.
“I used to suffer from severe depression. It’s just something about these guys that calms me. I hold them and my panic attacks go away,” she said. “I guess I feel like their mommy.”
Her snake skills can be sought out through Leeann’s Pet Shop, which also accepts donations on behalf of the rescued snakes.
Soon, Gilbert and Temple may have even more snakes on their hands — one of their boa constrictors may be pregnant. If she is, they will rehome the baby snakes.