Sheriff's deputy finds rattlesnake in garbage bag

A sheriff's deputy Friday morning found something unexpected when he examined a box left in front of the Merced County Courthouse: two toy guns and a rattlesnake.

No injuries were reported, and the snake was taken by Merced Animal Control, said deputy Tom MacKenzie, a Merced County Sheriff's spokesman.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., sheriff's deputy Rick Jarratt was told there was a suspicious package next to the fire hydrant near a sidewalk about 20 yards in front of the courthouse in downtown Merced.

MacKenzie said Jarratt, who works as a court bailiff, went to examine the package and found an open box with a gray garbage bag inside. The bag was tied in a knot. Jarratt picked up the bag and saw the toy handguns inside the box.

MacKenzie said one gun was a replica of a .45-caliber handgun and the other was a "pirate" style flint-action pistol. He said Jarratt untied the garbage bag and discovered the adult rattlesnake, which appeared to be 3 to 4 feet long.

Sheriff's officials watched surveillance footage and determined the package was left by a man who is believed to be a transient. Sheriff's officials don't know why he left the package.

MacKenzie said they have an idea who the man is, but they do not plan to look for him because the man did not commit a crime.

MacKenzie said sheriff's officials do not plan to file criminal charges; however, the outcome would have been different if someone had been bitten by the snake.