Man rescues, cares for not-so-cuddly critters

Aug 11 2013 - 4:36am

Images

Jim Dix waves his hand in front of the cage of a Colombian Boa at the new Reptile Rescue Service facility on Wednesday. Dix has around 3,000 animals at several locations around Utah.

(BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Jim Dix holds up a young alligator that he rescued after it was found in a Del Taco dumpster. 

(BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Jim Dix waves his hand in front of the cage of a Colombian Boa at the new Reptile Rescue Service facility on Wednesday. Dix has around 3,000 animals at several locations around Utah.

(BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Jim Dix holds up a young alligator that he rescued after it was found in a Del Taco dumpster. 

(BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)

TOOELE -- Jim Dix plans to continue to do all he can to rescue and save as many snakes, turtles and other animals no one else wants, even though he receives no funding from any government agency or million-dollar donations from private sources.

"People just don't care about reptiles," said Dix, founder and owner of Reptile Rescue Services Inc. "I hear, 'The only good snake is a dead snake,' all the time."

Dix does get free veterinary services for most of the 450 animals in his care. Four veterinarians in the Salt Lake area have helped him since he opened his animal sanctuary 16 years ago. He also has several friends who donate their time to help him care for the creatures housed in cages, tanks and other enclosures.

Dix, who is a plumber by trade, volunteers his time to remove rattlesnakes from homes. If the rattlesnake is native to Utah, Dix just relocates it to another area.

When called by local agencies or by the state Division of Wildlife Resources, Dix and his volunteers head out and pick up snakes, reptiles and other animals that other animal shelters do not house.

Dix said he does not receive any compensation from any state or local agencies for his time or for the fuel he uses to drive to rescue animals that have been found slithering or crawling in areas that are not native to them in Utah.

Dix drove to Clearfield after a duplex fire there in July revealed the resident's collection of 30 reptiles, including six illegally possessed snakes -- five rattlesnakes and a deadly gaboon viper.

Recently, Dix moved from Delta to a remote location in Tooele County. He said he wants to be closer to Northern Utah, where most of the rescue calls originate. Dix had moved to Delta after being evicted from his West Valley City location at the end of 2011 because the Utah Department of Transportation had bought the house where he and his animals lived for the Mountain View west corridor.

Now Dix is hoping within five months to have the new location in Tooele County open for the public. He is doing remodeling piece by piece through private donations and by volunteers.

Several times a day, he inspects every kennel and room and all the tanks and cages to make sure they are secure. They house the numerous snakes, lizards, turtles, coyotes, raccoons and other animals.

"In my 16 years as a rescue service, I have had no escapees, no animals loose," Dix said.

Dix got into rescuing reptiles and snakes after he received a call about 15 years ago that Salt Lake County Animal Control was going to euthanize a box turtle because no one wanted to adopt it for the $5 fee.

"Box turtles can't hurt anything or anyone," Dix said.

So Dix went to the shelter, plunked down $5 and adopted "Tank," who still lives with him, along with a bunch of turtles and tortoises.

In the past three years, Dix has been called to help rescue exotic reptiles, such as alligators, that have been found in Utah. Alligators would not survive Utah's winters. One of those rescues was at a Kaysville pond two summers ago. The alligator, which now lives in a tank, had been dumped in the pond.

It hissed as Dix pulled it out of the tank Wednesday.

"It wants to take a bite out of you," Dix said.

In other rooms, pythons, boas and rattlesnakes watched as Dix entered.

Dix does not take the larger snakes out of their tanks unless he has someone in the room he trusts who can help him, in case there is a problem.

"This one will kill a man," Dix said as a 12-foot boa snapped at the glass as Dix got close to it.

Dix and his staff go out to schools, libraries and fairs to teach about reptiles.

For more information about Dix and his rescue service, go to utahreptilerescueservices.webs.com.

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