When something slithers, his neighbors know who to call.
Frank Gamsky’s expertise has saved more than one snake, and sometimes, common sense helps, too.
“A woman called me to look at a big snake in her yard,” said Gamsky, the former owner and founder of Linger Lodge Restaurant and RV Resort. “She had a rat snake there. I saw it had a big bulge, and it had eaten recently.”
That was a problem since the lady’s cat was missing.
“She started crying and cursing up a storm about the snake, ‘That snake ate my kitten.’ She wanted me to kill it. I said, no, it didn’t, and pointed. That cat was sitting behind her in the window.”
Gamsky said he’s not sure how he came to appreciate snakes, other than Florida has plenty to observe. His kind outlook over the years has become well known among his friends and neighbors.
They call him when they spot a snake slithering through the yard. He goes over and identifies it. If it’s not poisonous, he tries to persuade them to keep it around.
If they still want it gone, he catches it and brings it back to his own yard.
“They eat rats and spiders and things,” he said. “They’re good to keep around.”
An amateur taxidermist, Gamsky displayed more than 100 snakes in various places around Linger Lodge. He has more displayed in the office of his East County home.
His wife, Elaine, asked him to confine his snakes to his office.
Gamsky, who sold the restaurant in 2005, found plenty of snakes when he built Linger Lodge.
“Highway 70 was a dirt road, it was a jungle back then,” he said of the 106-acre site after he bought it in 1968.
His knowledge of snakes spread and visitors to the restaurant would want to tell him about their snake encounters.
While he respects all snakes, he doesn’t like rattlesnakes, especially after a bite from one cost him $18,000 in hospital bills.
Gamsky notes that he likes all kinds of animals. His 3-year-old Chihauhau, Missy, was acquired after he noticed the dog was not eating well at her previous home. He gave the owner $50 and brought home the dog, who was “skin and bones.”
Now he tries to pass along his love of animals.
When his granddaughter, Rachel, was younger, the two would wander in the woods near their home and try to identify the snakes they would find. If the snake was injured, Gamsky would bring it back to the house and treat it. When it healed, they released it back into its habitat.
“I remember my grandfather used to show me non-venomous snakes, like black racers and rat snakes, and he would teach me how to grab them the right way,” Rachel Gamsky said. “He made a point to show me that snakes aren’t the scary, slimy creatures that people think they are.”
Rachel, now 22, follows her grandfather’s lead. She has a pet snake of her own, Ambriel, a 2-month-old Burmese python.
“Since I was very young, I’ve always enjoyed spending time with him because he sees things the same way I do,” she said. “He enjoys nature, and has a similar sense of humor.”
The two have rescued other animals — 16 baby squirrels, peacocks and doves — and rehabbed them until they were able to return to the wild.
“I wish that more people would take the time to understand nature and animals the way he does,” Rachel said. “There is nothing to be afraid of if you respect it.”