Expert Offers Safety Tips for Canyon Lake’s Summer Snake Season
Are there snakes in Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River?
Should you be worried?
Brett Parker, who owns Hill Country Snake Removal (and is Canyon Lake Fire/EMS’ firefighter of the year) said people should stop worrying about the water and start paying attention to where they walk after dark.
At sunset, rattlesnakes like to slither out of places where they hide from the hot summer sun and make their way onto sidewalks, streets, driveways and porches to warm back up for the night.
“You won’t always hear a rattle,” he said. “Their first line of defense is to quietly stay still.”
Parker famously owns a yellow python but it’s the non-invasive rat snakes, copperheads, milk snakes, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other local species that are his bread-and-butter.
Property owners call when they’re worried about a snake they’ve spotted on their property or need advice on how to manage reptiles on their land or in their gardens, which snakes appreciate for their easy access to shade and water.
“I look at their property and explain what attracts snakes and things they can do if it’s landscaping issues or whatnot,” he said. “Things they need to fix.”
“You won’t always hear a rattle. Their first line of defense is to quietly stay still.”
People who see snakes in their yard should leave them alone or spray them with a garden hose — unless drought conditions prevail. Parker said a little pressure on the water spray will usually startle snakes into moving along.
In an interview last year before his popular master class in snakes at Tye Preston Memorial Library, Parker said a lot of people lose their minds when they see snakes.
“They either scream and run away, or they’re going to try to kill the snake or get somebody to kill the snake because they’ve been taught their entire lives that snakes are bad,” he said.
He advises recreationalists who tube, boat, kayak, swim or float on stand-up paddleboards to chill as well.
“One of the biggest problems around this area is when we see a snake in the water, we assume it’s a cottonmouth or water mocassin when in reality, 99-percent of the time, it’s a non-venomous water snake.”
Still, snakes have been known to jump into boats.
“It’s usually snakes that have been swimming for a while,” he said. “If they’re tired, they’ll find something to rest on and a lot of times that’s a boat. People take it as the snake is chasing them and is wanting to come up on the boat and bite them, but it’s really wanting just to come up and sit on the boat and rest.”
An avid kayaker, he said tubers shouldn’t be too concerned about snakes in the Guadalupe River either. It’s too cold for cottonmouths. Parker said he’s only seen two snakes along the Canyon Lake portion of the Guadalupe River, and both were non-venomous.
All visitors should be wary of trails, however, where the odds of running across snakes are higher. Also, cottonmouths like to hang out in the feeder creeks on the north side of Canyon Lake because their shallow waters are warmer during cooler months.
People also seem to think that every snake is poisonous, Parker said. But there’s no quick way to tell if a snake is venomous or not just by looking.
In the classes he teaches, he offers very simple guidelines to help identify a snake.
“You should always use multiple identifiers rather than believing your Uncle Steve that says, ‘if it’s head is triangular then it’s venomous.'”
“I always tell people if you know what a cottonmouth looks like, you know what a copperhead looks like and you know what rattlesnakes and coral snakes look like, then you’re fine,” he said. “People have this idea that there are more venomous snakes than there actually are. Or that you can tell if a snake is venomous or not. A lot of people make IDs off of false information. There are a lot of bad ways to try and identify a snake. People talk about whether their pupils are vertical or horizontal. If you can see the pupils, you are too close to a snake.”
Coral snakes are popular topics of conversation on area social-media forums. If you’re thinking about red-touching-yellow then stop, Parker said. The rhyme is null and void in Comal County because the mimicking species, a milk snake, doesn’t live here.
If you do see a snake who’s red, yellow and black it is a coral snake, but it’s also the least-dangerous venomous snake in the United States. Coral snakes spend most of their life underground and pose little threat to humans or their pets unless stepped on. Coral snakes are very timid and reluctant to bite.
“The Texas coral snake, unlike the rhyme, which states ‘red touch yellow, kills a fellow,’ hasn’t killed anyone in well over 50 years,” he said. “If you do happen to somehow be envenomated (bitten) by one, which is very difficult to accomplish, you should seek medical attention but will probably get nothing more than pain medication and observation. Anti-venom is usually not even warranted with that species.”
When he teaches his classes Parker always reminds people they’re actually living in snakes’ homes, not the other way around.
“We live in their home, just like the deer and whatever other animals you’re going to come across,” he said. “You need to understand there are snakes around. You might not want to let your kids run around barefoot. Educate them about native wildlife.”