If she sees a picture of a snake, she folds the page so she does not have to look at it. A Halloween haunted house once had to stop operations, turn on the lights and escort Hurst outside because she panicked when she saw a python among the attractions, she says.
Now the Roy woman is reeling from the discovery of two large snakes that apparently escaped a flooded farm in the Midwest by slithering into a package delivered to her home Wednesday.
Hurst, 55, had ordered an oxygen generator from an Indiana company for her glass-blowing hobby, she said. She took the parcel to her living room and was pulling bubble wrap out of the box when she noticed what appeared to be a hose attachment. Her cat took great interest.
On closer examination, her husband, James, discovered the "hose" was a 4-foot snake.
"Just leave it alone," Gaye Hurst told her husband. "We don't know what kind of snake it is. It's from Indiana."
Hurst said she called 911 and begged dispatchers to send police and the National Guard. "They probably thought I was kidding," she said.
State wildlife officers arrived to removed the snake when James Hurst noticed movement inside the base of the oxygen generator. A second snake was coiled in the appliance, Gayle Hurst said.
Scientists suspect the snakes are black rat snakes - nonvenomous snakes common in Indiana, said Mark Hadley, spokesman for the state Division of Wildlife Resources. It appears they fed on a piece of foam inside the machine, which was shipped from Unlimited Oxygen in Mooresville, Ind., on June 20, Hurst said.
Staff at the Unlimited Oxygen said a barn near the company's warehouse had become swamped during recent flooding in the Midwest. A company spokeswoman said the snakes likely were displaced and took refuge in the generator.
Biologists planned to bring the snakes to Salt Lake City today to confirm their species and decide whether they may be kept in Utah as pets, Hadley said. If not, they likely will be shipped and released in a state where the species is native.