Brett Parker learned as a child that all snakes aren’t necessarily bad snakes.
“As a kid I watched National Geographic more than I watched cartoons,” he said. “I found out pretty quick that there are only a few animals you can catch as a kid, and living near Houston there were a bunch of them who lived on my grandmothers’ place in Splendora.
“When I was 5 or 6, I watched her chop up a garter snake with a hoe. I asked why she did it and she said it was a good thing — that the only good snake was a dead snake.
“That’s how most Texans feel today. I thought that wasn’t fair, so I wound up figuring out ways to help the snakes escape Grandma.”
Parker, a firefighter with the Canyon Lake Fire and EMS Department, recently discovered he had a knack in dispelling that myth to others – which has blossomed into a second profession. His class, “Texas Snake Identification and Safety,” refutes that old adage while educating on the essential roles snakes play in the environment.
“For the past 25-plus years I have been capturing, relocating and studying snakes as a hobby,” he said. “About three years ago I started a very small part-time business removing and relocating snakes Parker Snake Removal. After being told by several customers and friends that I should teach a class, I took their advice and created one.”
Parker, now 34, is married with a 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. Born in Conroe, he earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and has been with Canyon Lake Fire & EMS for nearly nine years.
“Every firefighter has a side job, and I started getting calls from people asking me to get snakes out of their yards. I found out that a lot of them had questions about snakes, and I began spending more time educating them about snakes than I did removing them,” he said.
After being prodded to teach classes, he started with a 20-minute session at the New Braunfels Fire Department’s medical directors meeting a few weeks ago. He’s had two sessions at the Tye Preston Library in Canyon Lake, with more than 200 showing up for his first on June 6.
“I brought live snakes and explained how to identify the poisonous snakes from the harmless snakes, facts over folklore and the rumors and lies about snakes that people tend to believe,” he said. “One was that rattlesnakes don’t rattle around pigs; but they don’t rattle unless they have to. But their first line of defense is to lie still in hopes their camouflage works and that the (invader) will go away.”
Parker says his classes – lasting between an hour and 90 minutes – dispel the bad rumors and spread the facts – chiefly that “rodent populations would flourish if we didn’t have them in our environment.”
Non venomous snakes are capable of killing and devouring venomous snakes, he added, citing species such as indigo and rat snakes. Others are killed because of mistaken identities, such as king snakes that resemble poisonous coral snakes.
“Lots of people think that all snakes in the water are cottonmouths, which also isn’t true,” Parker said. “They just don’t realize the numbers of non venomous species that are around.”
Parker his attendees are held in rapt attention during the shows, which include advice on what to do if you’re bitten by a venomous snake.
“Many find out there’s no reason to fear snakes,” he said. “Most of us growing up in Texas are taught that, and I’m showing them that it’s not true.”
He held another class Saturday at Tye Preston. He has others scheduled 6-8 p.m. July 18 at Schertz-Community Center North, 3501 Morning Drive in Schertz; and 2-4 p.m. July 19 at Westside Community Center, 2932 South Interstate 35 frontage road in New Braunfels.
Cost is $10 for adults; $5 for children under 18 and free for kids 3-under. Parker encourages preregistrations by calling 325-260-2782 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.