Dave Lawrence was on his way to a store in uptown Fredericton when he stumbled across a curious scene.
A man was stooped over on the sidewalk frantically scooping up what looked like dozens of small snakes, using a tree branch to scoop them into a little red bucket.
“I saw what I thought was a snake, because in one of the photos I posted, it’s standing up,” said Lawrence. “That’s when I looked a bit more to my left, more the entrance way to the Hilltop restaurant, and I saw what looked like two dozen of them.”
Lawrence is a morning show radio host for one of the city’s private radio stations. He also happens to have a serious snake phobia. So severe, in fact, he said he once glimpsed just the tail of a snake at a zoo, and the next thing he knew he was being woken up by paramedics.
In this case, Lawrence snapped a few pictures and promptly left the situation to the apparent snake handler at the scene.
“THERE IS A GUY ON PROSPECT STREET PICKING UP A BUNCH OF LOOSE SNAKES!?!?!?!” Lawrence posted on Facebook, attaching four photos of the man desperately trying to wrangle the creatures.
“Loose snakes guy” quickly became a hot topic online, with hundreds of local people chiming in with their theories on what exactly was going on in his photos.
Many pointed out that those snakes might not actually be reptiles. They could be eels.
The plot thickened. How did these eels wind up struggling for dear life on a hot sidewalk? And why were there so many of them?
Alycia Sauvageau also came across the slithery “snakes” on her way to work.
“I got off the bus and walked into them,” said Sauvageau. “Even the bus driver kind of slowed down and was looking.”
But she did notice one man taking action.
“There was a cab driver parked there for a bit,” said Sauvageau. “He took it upon himself to pick them up.”
It turns out that driver was Jahandar Pourazam, and he’s the only one who saw what happened.
He was sitting in his taxi at the Shoppers Drug parking lot on Prospect Street waiting for his next fare.
“A pickup truck was carrying two containers of, I think it was water,” said Pourazam.
He estimates those containers were about 500 litres each, but the cover on one was ajar.
When the truck awkwardly hit the curb, a lot of water sloshed onto the sidewalk.
“Suddenly, I realized that something is moving,” said Pourazam. “[I went] ‘Oh what is that? Is that snakes?'”
“I went closer and saw no, they are eels,” he said. “At that moment I didn’t know what to do.”
Pourazam ran back to his cab, grabbed the small container he normally uses for road salt, and filled it with water from his water bottle.
Worried about using his bare hands, Pourazam used twigs and leaves to pick up the wriggling eels and put them back into water.
He said he was able to recover every one of them, although he thinks two or three were in rough shape from their fall out of the truck.
With his jug full of eels, Pourazam made a beeline for Morell Park and released them all into the St. John River.
Just trying to help
He says the vehicle the eels were ejected from was unmarked, noting only that it was a Ford. He has no clue who was transporting a truckload of eels, or why.
“Maybe for research, maybe for food? I don’t know.”
Pourazam said he also had no idea photos of him rescuing those eels had been shared widely online, or that he’d been dubbed “loose snakes guy.”
He says he was just trying to help.
“It’s normal,” said Pourazam. “When you see an animal suffering you cannot just see them suffering, you go to help them.”
He says it doesn’t matter if they were snakes or eels.
“I like every kind of life,” said Pourazam.