'Snake Man' Gets Probation and Pets Back

Times Staff Writer

Al Robbins, the Bakersfield octogenarian known as the "snake man," pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor charges of unlawfully possessing reptiles for commercial purposes.

West Kern County Municipal Judge Roger Randall placed Robbins on one year's probation. As part of the plea bargain, the state Fish and Game Department agreed to return most of the two dozen snakes it had confiscated and to issue Robbins permits to keep them, said Jere N. Sullivan Jr., Robbins' attorney.

Sullivan also said Robbins will receive a special letter allowing him to transport his snakes.

Fish and Game Department undercover agents purchased rattlesnakes from Robbins in February and subsequently raided his cluttered laboratory, seizing rattlesnakes, cobras and water moccasins.

All the snakes had been rendered harmless by the self-styled herpetologist, who had surgically removed their venom ducts.

Over the past 35 years, Robbins, accompanied by some of his snakes, has lectured to thousands of schoolchildren throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The raid drew protests from hundreds who had witnessed his presentations.

"Al didn't think he had done anything wrong, but he agreed to the nolo contendere (no-contest plea) in order to get his snakes back. That was what was important to him, that and getting permits to continue giving his shows at the schools," Sullivan said.

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