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Santa Clarita's Snake Wrangler

rattlerThe following is a reprint of an April news story, reissued with a revised phone number.

Santa Clarita sits on the outskirts of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. While we live in this concrete jungle, it is important to remember that we share it with animals and critters who called it home long before we did.

Hugo Heermaan, a Saugus resident, knows of this symbiotic relationship with our wild friends and has made it his mission to help save them.

Heermaan is a snake wrangler, and will rescue snakes from anyone's yard or home.

"I rescue snakes and relocate them," said Heermaan. "The Fire Department and Animal Control will kill the snakes, especially rattlesnakes. They don't have the time and training to capture them and relocate them."

Heermaan says that years of breeding snakes and his experience with them makes him an expert, but snake wrangling isn't his day job. He is a math teacher at Washington Irving Middle School in Los Angeles.

"The busiest time for rattlesnakes to come out is this time of the year," said Heerman. "They've been underground for about three months and they're coming out to breed and eat."

Heermaan will come out to a home and capture any snake, even rattlesnakes, for free. He then takes the snake back to his home where he hydrates and de-stresses it, before releasing it into the mountains, "far away from people."

Heermaan says that he averages anywhere from 20 to 50 snake rescues a year.

He was recently called out to the YMCA on McBean Parkway to rescue a gopher snake that had made its way into their office.

Despite his dangerous line of work, Heermaan says he has never been bit by a rattlesnake.

"I use proper equipment like tongs and hooks, and never get in the striking range," said Heermaan. "I don't take any chances, my aim is to rescue the rattlesnake, not to get bit."

While Heermaan will rescue the snakes from their human counterparts, he also offers some tips to help stay safe this snake season:

  • Learn what certain snakes look like, rattlesnakes have a triangular head and a rattle on their tail.
  • A number of snakes are non-venomous, but even still you shouldn't try to catch them unless you're positive it is indeed non-venomous.
  • Snakes are looking for food and water. Dog food attracts rodents, which are a favorite of snakes.
  • Snakes can climb bushes and low tree limbs, and slip through fences to get into a yard.
  • A ¼ inch fine mesh screen installed along the bottom a fence can help keep snakes out.
  • Keeping a clean yard and trimmed bushes will limit the amount of hiding places snakes will have in your yard.

"The reason I do the rattlesnake rescue is because I don't like to see them killed," said Heermaan. "They're an important part of the natural community, and serve a purpose. They have a right to be relocated and not killed."

Heermaan can be reached anytime after 3 p.m. on weekdays until summer when he doesn't teach. During summer he can be reached at any time at (805) 660-3348.