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Lake & Rivers Library Local News Nature

Take a Snake Identification Safety Course

Snakes that swim are a big obsession for residents and visitors alike -- but Brett Parker, who's teaching a snake safety course next month, says there's really nothing to worry about. He's only seen one, once, in all his years of kayaking. (Image courtesy of "Swimming with Snakes" by Bratayley on YouTube.)

You’re not the only one who would run away if someone dangled a snake in front of you.

Brett Parker, owner of Parker Snake Removal and an engineer/paramedic with Comal County E.S.D. No. 3 (Canyon Lake Fire/EMS), said a lot of people lose their mind when they see a snake (or him, carrying a cardboard box).

“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.

It’s a lesson Parker learned the hard way at age five, visiting his grandmother in Splendora. She took a hoe to a garter snake, chopping it into pieces before announcing that the only good snake was a dead snake.

Horrified, Parker made it his mission to protect snakes from grandma, using sticks (“very carefully”) to pick them up and return them to the woods, out of harm’s way.

Snake Identification Safety Course

Brett Parker

Seven-year-old Alivia joins dad and snake expert Brett Parker out on the water.

It was the beginning of a lifelong passion and part-time career and the topic of a class he’s presenting, Snake Identification Safety Course at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 6 at Tye Preston Memorial Library, 16311 S. Access Rd., Canyon Lake.

“I want to set the facts straight,” Parker said. “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.”

An avid kayaker, he said he’s only seen two snakes along the Canyon Lake portion of the Guadalupe River — and both were non-venemous.

Parker said he’ll teach residents how to tell from a distance whether a snake is venomous or non-venomous, and preach the truth behind the half-truths of reptilian folklore.

For example, red-touch-yellow is not-a-dangerous-fellow, but the least-dangerous-venemous-snake in the United States. Coral snakes are shy and actually prefer not to bite. But when they do … chances are the hospital will prescribe little more than pain meds.

Speaking as a paramedic, Parker advises people to go to the emergency room if they think they’ve been bitten by a snake. But he’ll offer do’s and don’ts of what to do in the immediate aftermath of a snake bite.

To prepare for the class, he’s been out and about in Canyon Lake over the last several weeks, catching both venomous (nobody says poisonous anymore) and non-venomous snakes. There are around 20 non-venomous types in the area and five venomous varieties, something Parker wishes people would consider before they complain about the reptiles.

“What people don’t realize is, you’re living in Canyon Lake. 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 being snakes around, you might not want to let your kids run around barefoot, and educate them about native wildlife.”

Parker’s worked for Canyon Lake Fire/EMS for nine years. He graduated from college with a degree in Exercise Science and also coached gymnastics for 10 years.

“I never went to school for herpetology or anything like that, even though I wanted to,” he said.

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