Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ALL WRAPPED UP IN WORLD OF SNAKES; Animal Remover Particularly Likes Reptilian Aspect of His Job

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ALL WRAPPED UP IN WORLD OF SNAKES; Animal Remover Particularly Likes Reptilian Aspect of His Job

Article excerpt

Byline: Paula A. Senn

A water moccasin has given a lifelong Jacksonville man his 15 minutes of fame.

Clent Wilkinson captured the venomous snake for a segment of "Animal Superpowers: Extreme Hunters," which aired earlier this month on the Nat Geo WILD channel.

Wilkinson works for Wildlife Solutions, a Sanford-based animal removal company. As the company's staff herpetologist, he was the obvious choice when a British film crew contacted the company for help with the television program.

In August, they filmed him in the prearranged "capture" of the water moccasin in a garage in Melbourne. It could have been filmed in Jacksonville, though. The area has water moccasins as well as the venomous Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes and coral snakes.

Wilkinson, not wanting to create a problem for the property's owner, said, "I was real reticent about just backing out and losing sight of the snake. But he was pretty docile."

The moccasin, also known as a cottonmouth, is part of the pit viper family - so-named because they have a pit between each eye and nostril. Wilkinson said that is the location of heat receptors, which allow the snake to detect and track its warm-blooded prey, "as accurately as a heat-seeking missile."

That special power is the reason the program featured the water moccasin.

Although he deals with other critters, snakes are his forte. It was an interest that began in childhood.

"I'm one of those rare individuals who's always been drawn to them," he said.

He said he spent summers catching and observing snakes in enclosures he set up in the yard - paying attention to their habits and their markings. At the end of the summer, he would release them back into their natural habitats.

Wilkinson said, "Mom wasn't too cool with that," but added that, as long as she didn't have to see the snakes, she let him keep doing it.

His knowledge is all hands-on, he said; he's had no formal herpetology training or education. But he said he reads everything and talks to anyone with knowledge to share.

"I'm just a sponge for any information about my field," he said.

This lifelong hobby turned into a full-time job seven years ago, when he got the job with Wildlife Solutions. …

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