STUART — As a crowd of third-graders stood back, police Officer Billy McGigham tugged at the tail of a 4-foot rattlesnake on the playground of the Felix A. Williams Elementary School.
A school custodian helped with a shovel, holding down the poisonous snake that bared its fangs.
But it was McGigham who pulled the snake, easing it through a chain-link fence until he could grab it just behind its head. He then stuffed it into an empty shotgun bag that he zippered shut about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“It made me uneasy and nervous,” said McGigham’s partner, Officer Brian Bossio, “but he is experienced with snakes.”
Releasing the snake back into the woods behind the school wasn’t an option. Trails are being cleared there for students to walk on.
So McGigham handed the snake over to Martin County Animal Control. Later the same day, he also handed over a parrot that flew into a car at Martin Medical Center.
The first call of the day was from the school in the 400 block of Northwest Baker Road, Stuart. “When we got there, the snake was a third of the way through the fence” headed away from the playground, Bossio said.
“We have no idea where it came from,” said the officer, whose son, Tyler, was on the playground when the snake was found. That afternoon, the youth came home from school yelling, “‘Dad, dad!’ I told him McGigham was the real hero.”