GREENFIELD — A streak of white caught Jay Reger’s eye as he was mowing his lawn last week.
He quickly realized it was a snake slithering through his yard, but something was different. The animal was bright white.
“I thought, ‘Oh, wait a minute; that was an albino,’” he said.
Hopping off of his rider mower, Reger snagged the rare find and began delving into research on the animal.
He called a professor he had at Ball State University some 35 years ago. Then he called the Hoosier Herpetological Society.
Everybody was eager to learn more about the 18-inch white creature with red eyes.
“We thought it was really cool,” said Jim Horton, president of the Hoosier Herpatological Society, a network of educators and volunteers that conduct educational events about reptiles and amphibians across Indiana.
To find an albino reptile in the wild is a one-in-10,000 possibility, Horton said. He said this particular creature is an Eastern garter snake.
“They pop up every once in a while. They just don’t pop up that much,” he said.
Reger, who has lived in his rural Greenfield home just south of the city about 20 years, kept the snake in a plastic cage for four days.
“It was pretty active, you know, if you would get it out,” he said.
The snake, which never got a name, found a new home with the Hoosier Herpetological Society on Tuesday. Horton said it’s a good thing Reger captured the garter: it’s already 2 or 3 years old but probably wouldn’t have lived much longer in the wild because predators can easily spot an albino.
The average lifespan of a garter snake is 20 to 25 years.
Horton said the society will keep the snake with its collection and take it to educational events and conferences across the state.
As of Wednesday, the snake was doing well — hanging out in Horton’s personal animal room and munching on earthworms.
Reger said he’s glad to have made the snake’s acquaintance. He rescued the snake from his yard to give it a chance for survival, he said.
“The snake deserves to have a life,” he said.