Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Photo courtesy of Bryan D. Hughes via X.

By Teresa K. Traverse

June 24, 2024

Meet the Rattlesnake Guy: Bryan D. Hughes and his company Rattlesnake Solutions work to educate and relocate snakes that live in the Valley.

Many people are downright terrified of rattlesnakes, but Bryan D. Hughes happens to not be one of them.

Hughes is the owner of Rattlesnake Solutions. Across his social media platforms (like his X, Threads, YouTube, and LinkedIn accounts), he’ll post photos and videos of him and his team interacting with these snakes all over the Valley. He’ll often share videos of where a snake was found and how it was captured.

The posts tend to be a mix of educational information (like this chart of Scottsdale snakes), recent snake trappings, and photos of other reptiles. You can find photos of snakes in pools, Can-Ams, and backyards across the Valley.

He’ll also sometimes caption the photo with an interesting tidbit of information on how owners can make their yards unattractive to snakes. For example, in one photo of a snake in a white bucket, he writes on a June 12 X post: “This adult Western Diamondback Rattlesnake was found in a Scottsdale yard hiding out in a rosemary bush. Ironically, rosemary is often touted as a deterrent to rattlesnakes, but the low ground cover and heavy leaf litter make them ideal rattlesnake homes.”

The posts are also reflective of his company’s approach to business. He and his team of about 30 people work to educate people on snakes, trap snakes, and then relocate them to an environment where the snake can hopefully thrive. He takes a conservation approach as opposed to a pest-control approach to his work.

Learn more about the Rattlesnake Guy’s background in reptiles, what his company does, and how to make your home less appealing to snakes.  

 

How the Rattlesnake Guy got into this type of work

You have to admit that Hughes is in a really interesting line of work. Like many, his interest in reptiles started in childhood.

“Well, I just really like snakes,” he says. “If you were to ask 10 people who have similar lines of work to me, they would all say that it starts out with books about dinosaurs. And then you run out of the books about dinosaurs, and you get to the next best thing, which is books about reptiles. And then there’s reptiles in your backyard, and all that.”

His childhood interest has never waned. Before working at his current job, he had a background in marketing and communications that he decided to put to good use. Today, he works to not only capture rattlesnakes but to educate others about these animals that are common residents of the Valley of the Sun.

Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Photo courtesy of Bryan D. Hughes via X.

Common misconceptions about rattlesnakes

According to the CDC, roughly 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year. Out of all those, about five of them die from the bites. That low number doesn’t match the high level of fear most people have when it comes to these creatures.

“With rattlesnakes in particular, how much it dominates the minds of people that are fearful of them is nowhere near justified,” says Hughes.

There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to rattlesnakes and snakes in general.

“The biggest one is more of the concept of aggressiveness, the concept of danger,” he says. “If people look at an animal and they feel scared of it, and translate that internally as aggression, or if somebody sees a snake and runs away from it, in their mind that chased them, and that’s the memory that’s conjured there.”

Even though the popular opinion of rattlesnakes is that they’re aggressive creatures, the reality is very different from that image.

“There’s this general idea that walking around outside with these things around they’re just going to lash out at any moving thing that’s near them. I would be scared of them myself. If that were true. It just doesn’t happen to be true,” he says. “They’re very shy, very fragile animals that their entire lives, their entire natural history is about avoiding detection, avoiding fights.”

If you see a snake, leave the snake alone. Snakes generally don’t hide out waiting to bite a human.

Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Photo courtesy of Bryan D. Hughes via X.

What he does on the job

His company does a few things, but one of their main tasks is to relocate snakes. They’re typically trapped in a bucket and then released. The team also can come out and assess what makes a yard so rattlesnake-friendly. For example, if a home has five rattlesnakes in a certain area, that’s likely not a random event. The team will advise homeowners on how to redesign their yards so that doesn’t happen. The company also puts up rattlesnake fencing to keep the reptiles out of people’s homes.

“In my opinion, we’ve made a conservation tool,” says Hughes. A lot of what I do is “just field biology work. I’m out doing studies with wild rattlesnakes in urban contact zones to find out how they live.”

Rattlesnake Solutions also offers a free snake identification service. If people send pictures of the snakes, the company will identify the species and let the person know what species they’re dealing with.

Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Photo courtesy of Bryan D. Hughes.

How calls are handled

His company receives roughly 2,000 calls annually. If someone calls and reports finding a snake in their yard, they won’t necessarily be charged for a removal. Sometimes the best course of action is to leave the snake in the yard. Many times, the snake will leave on its own without any intervention. 

“Here’s the thing: Ideally, the people will leave it there. Ideally, we can give them some information so they can peacefully coexist with the wildlife,” he says.

If someone finds a rattlesnake, they’re typically always removed since they’re venomous. But if the person calling just wants the snake gone, it’s treated like an emergency situation. He or someone on his team will go out immediately to remove the snake.

Next, the snake is captured and put into a bucket where it’s contained. The catcher is always outside of the strike zone of the snake and uses what are essentially a really long, strong pair of tongs to pick up the snake and place the animal in a bucket. The lid of the bucket is then put on. You can watch this process in this video.

“Actually catching one is pretty easy, as long as you do it gently and put them in a bucket,” he says. The key to capturing one is to be swift and confident. The company also trains people on how to catch snakes. 

“One of the big focuses is on fear control,” he says, when training individuals. “because if somebody’s approaching a snake expecting it to kill them, if they mess up, and they will mess up because you’re going to handle the snake improperly, they’re not going to move confidently, and they’ll waffle it and create a dangerous situation,”

As you can imagine, the company receives some pretty interesting calls from time to time. Hughes told us that typically the two busiest times are in the winter when snakes are denning, and it’s likely that they’ll find two to five in one place.

The other busy season is when the snakes are giving birth, which is in the summertime. They might find a mother with 15 baby snakes or multiple mothers with multiple babies. The highest number of snakes he’s personally seen? About 180 in a den in Idaho. It doesn’t scare him, however.

“Those are the calls we want to get. It’s always fun to have an interesting day,” he says.

Where are the snakes released?

Where snakes are released depends on a variety of factors.

“In the shortest terms, we need to try and emulate the reason that brought into that situation. In microhabitat, out in the desert, based on its species, sex condition, time of year, that kind of thing. So that it has the best chance of survival. It can reorient itself back into its own range on its own timeline,” he says.

Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Photo courtesy of Bryan D. Hughes.

How to prevent snakes from returning 

“It’s important to treat this as an aspect of wildlife biology rather than more of a pest control type of mentality is that the snake is there for a reason,” he says.

He gave us the example that is if the snake by a woodpile, it’s likely that the woodpile is why the snake is there. His company would then give the owner advice on how to move the woodpile.

“Every snake is treated as a symptom of usually a different problem that’s there. And hopefully, the homeowners, they can live with more safely in their weather,” he says.

Hughes told us that in order to design a yard that rattlesnakes won’t find inviting, you want to avoid creating a habitat for them.

“What brings them to yards is that we create habitat. So we create an oasis out here,” says Hughes. “You live out the flats out by Scottsdale where there’s no rock, and there’s no water. You build a home on a two-acre lot with a swimming pool, a drip system, water fountains, dense lantana, a bird block bringing in prey. Why wouldn’t I go hang out there if I was an animal? So people create perfect habitat adjacent to wildlife,” he says.

Creating an oasis for a desert home can also mean inadvertently creating an oasis for other animals.

“It doesn’t mean that everybody should have a yard that looks like the surface of Mars,” he says. “But those are all choices to make.” 

He gave us the example that he lives on an 11-acre property in Carefree and loves animals including snakes (he has 36 rattlesnakes) around, but if he lived closer to town and had pets and a toddler, he would have made different choices like not having a bird block, for instance.

“Making that kind of education with people, so that they can make choices on whether or not to attract wildlife is a much more productive conversation than whether or not you should kill wildlife when it inevitably appears,” he says. “And even though it’s productive, it’s also one that it’s very difficult to engage with people on a lot of times because it’s just not the way we think. We want to be reactive to things. We want to shoot stuff. So it’s a cultural change that in Arizona can be difficult at times. You can’t just shoot away all problems. You have to prevent the problem.”

Hughes tells us that wildlife interactions mostly happen on the outskirts of town, where there’s more land for the animals to roam. He says they also can find them in the West Valley where there are plenty of new builds. The animals tend to concentrate on the last row of houses.

In Scottsdale, he can see them from Carefree all the way down to just south of the 101 due to the large swaths of preserved desert in that part of town. Although, according to Hughes, both Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak are both loaded with rattlesnakes. It’s relatively rare to receive a call about snakes in the center of town.

Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

Photo courtesy of Bryan D. Hughes.

Rattlesnakes and dogs don’t mix

Hughes did tell us that it’s a good idea for dog owners and those with young children to keep rattlesnakes out of their yards. But the best way to do this is by creating an environment that the snake won’t want to or simply can’t live in not by killing the snake.

“A lot of them, [homeowners] just want to kill the snake, and they think that solves the problem, which is like shooting at passing cars to prevent car accidents. It doesn’t make any sense. Look at the preventative ways to do it. So dogs and rattlesnakes don’t mix. Build a yard that rattlesnakes can’t get into and train the dog to avoid rattlesnakes instead of focusing on the sink itself. That’s a big mistake people make,” he says.

Yes, snakes can bite

Hughes does acknowledge that bites do happen.

 “They’re sort of in the opposite light of what they actually are. And if you step on something and break its ribs, it’s going to try to prevent that. That’s where bites happen,” he says.

He’s only been bitten once. It was (thankfully) a dry bite where no venom was released. The call was during the middle of a cold November night in Rio Verde, about 45 minutes from his home.

“That’s kind of a rule that I broke internally is just well, if you don’t feel like doing it, don’t do it. If you’re not into it. If you’re not excited to do it, don’t come. Don’t go do it. Because your mind is not going to be where it needs to be. So I went out there anyway,” he says.

He had captured a snake at a home and was trying to find another den for the snake to call home. After looking at maps, he finally found what he thought was the perfect spot. He released the captured snake around midnight and reached down to grab a bucket and was bitten by a second rattlesnake that was already there.

 “I actually remember being excited at the time. How my hibernacula identification model worked great, I found it. Then. ‘Oh, shit, I just got bit by a rattlesnake,’” he says.

Although he cautions others who have been bitten NOT to do this, he didn’t call 911 immediately. For one thing, he had no service where he was and simply could not. He started driving toward Scottsdale and was waiting until he had more service bars to call emergency services. But there were no symptoms of a venom bite. He says it felt like getting pricked by a thorn, but he didn’t feel any burning or stinging that’s associated with venom being injected. He’s only been bitten once and says that as long as you focus on safety, the job isn’t nearly as scary as it might seem.

“It looks like it might be a dangerous job. But really, it’s something that if you obsess over safety, so then it’s safe,” he says.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’Meet Bryan D. Hughes, Phoenix’s ‘Rattlesnake Guy’

 

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Author

  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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