Two women brought four scorpions to the Keizer Fire Department Wednesday. (courtesy Keizer Fire Department)
The Keizer Fire Station got some surprise visitors of the arachnid variety on Wednesday.
Two moms drove nearly two miles from Keizer Rapids Park to the fire station with an open, plastic Red Vines container filled with four scorpions after finding it near the playground, said Fire Chief Jeff Cowan.
“You’ve got to imagine how creeped out they were in their car,” Cowan said.
Once he determined “Yes, they really are scorpions and what do you know about scorpions? Nothing. You know they’re bad and they sting and they’re scary,” he started making calls.
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Cowan called the police and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, who referred him to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
That led Cowan to entomologist Tom Valente, who was able to identify the species - Uroctonus mordax - a native to the Pacific Northwest.
“Most people don’t really know that we’ve got native scorpions,” Valente said.
These scorpions aren’t commonly seen because they’re nocturnal and shy. They mostly hang out under rocks or logs.
Valente said there’s no reason to be frightened; Oregon’s native invertebrates and arachnids are not dangerous, with the exception of the Western black widow spider.
The mordax variety of scorpion plays opossum when they’re disturbed.
All of this was news to Cowan who said his staff was really creeped out about the open container of scorpions.
“You just picture them jumping on your face like something out of Alien,” Cowan joked about the three-inch arachnids.
The scorpions were named after the firefighters that were on shift that day -- Timmy, Lynn, Ted, and Jeramiah.
Cowan said the fire department prefers people “don’t bring things that explode or sting or bite to the fire station.” But knowing what he knows now, if someone were to bring another native scorpion to the station, he would tell them to leave them alone or let them go.
At the end of the day, he said the scorpion caper made for a good laugh.
But how did the scorpions get in the container?
Cowan’s guess is that some kids were pulling up rotten logs, catching scorpions and putting them in their leftover candy bucket.
Valente has a similar theory.
For now, the scorpions will stay with the Department of Agriculture making appearances at outreach events like the Oregon State Fair next month before they’re eventually returned to the wild.
While yesterday’s scorpions weren’t invasive, Valente said his organization wants people to be on lookout for invasive insects and call their hotline if they see one.
“When people find unusual invertebrates, they sometimes call us and that’s a great thing,” he said.
The invasive species hotline can be reached at 1-866-468-2337.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.