June 29, 2001 11:00 pm
HOME AGAIN: Julie Williamson is spending lots of time enjoying being reunited with her buddy, Freddie the corn snake. Freddie escaped last August and was found Monday evening. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).
HOME AGAIN: Julie Williamson is spending lots of time enjoying being reunited with her buddy, Freddie the corn snake. Freddie escaped last August and was found Monday evening. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).

Freddie the corn snake and the iguana left loose in a North Powder motel room are now permanent, cared-for La Grande residents.

Staff at the Louise McNeely Memorial Animal Shelter confirmed Thursday that both the albino, or creamsicle, female corn snake found Monday evening on Spring Avenue, and the large iguana traveling with Roy Scott Fritts and Holly Ervin, are now with owners in La Grande.

Fritts and Ervin are the couple who allegedly fired rifle shots at Sheriff Steve Oliver while fleeing at high speeds from deputies and state police June 5 along Interstate 84 near North Powder.

The iguana found a new adoptive home last week, shelter staff said. That occurred after deputies with the Union County Sheriffs Office confirmed through Montana deputies that the previous owners of the animal werent going to demand its return and it wasnt evidence in a theft case.

It wasnt known if the iguana, which spent several weeks at the shelter and prefers to be hand-fed green vegetables and fruit, was a male or female.

Freddie returns to

her swimming pool

The story of the corn snake was a bit more of a miracle.

Julie Spinz Williamson, who owns the snake, claimed it late Wednesday afternoon after it was lost last August.

Williamson said her father had taken the snake outside on a very hot evening for a bit of sunbathing the snake enjoys. When he

stepped away for a moment, Freddie disappeared.

My dad felt horrible, so horrible. Im so glad this has a happy ending, Williamson, an in-home caregiver said after being reunited with Freddie.

Williamson had had the corn snake for nearly two years, watching it grow from 6 to 8 inches long to nearly 2 feet. She kept every skin the snake shed, and used Freddie to help other people learn about snakes. Freddie lived in a terrarium outfitted not only with a heat source, but with an old-style metal ice-cube tray converted to a swimming pool.

Williamson had seen a report in the public record of a snake being found only a block from her home. But when it was described as an albino, she wasnt sure, since she refers to the pale orangish Freddie as creamsicle.

The she saw Freddie on the front page of The Observer.

I said, Holy cow! Thats Freddie! Williamson says as she strokes the snake looped around her neck.

Shes a really friendly snake, Williamson says of the pet she calls my buddy. When Freddie was smaller, she often curled into Williamsons pants pockets and slept. More recently, shes seemed to enjoy going along with Williamson, entwined in her owners belt loops.

But Freddie has a history of going off on her own, too.

She got loose once before, and was gone a week, Williamson said. I found her in the couch.

So how do you tell one corn snake from another? Especially after nearly 10 months apart?

Williamson was able to tell shelter staff that the snake , when it was much smaller, had been bitten on the tail by a mouse and still carried the scar. When shelter staff checked, they found the small black scar where Williamson described.

She knew me as soon as I picked her up, Williamson claims. Freddie gave her a snakey stare that Williamson interpreted as, Where have you been?

Williamson got Freddie home and back in her habitat, fed her a mouse and has been enjoying her ever since.

The snake a native of much warmer Eastern states and known as a non-aggressive species apparently avoided the pitfalls of an Eastern Oregon winter, the threat of cats and predatory birds, and stayed close to home it was found Monday on the other side of Williamsons block. She lives at 910 Main St., while Freddie was found in front of 907 Spring St.

To those who shiver or shy away from snakes, Williamson has sympathy and a bit of advice.

I used to hate snakes, she admits. But Freddie has got personality up the wazoo and is my friend, not my pet.

Its important for people to try to understand things that scare them, that they dont understand.

As the 30-inch-long snake gently moves in a knot around Williamsons hand and thumb, then stretches to gently touch her face with a scent-sensing tongue, Williamson smiles.

Freddies finally home.