Join hosts AJ and Sara in an exciting episode as they welcome Snake Wrangler Bruce, a fearless expert in handling and rescuing snakes in San Diego. Discover the captivating world of snake rescue and gain valuable insights into understanding local snakes, staying safe, and avoiding potential dangers.
Note: This podcast episode is for informational purposes only and does not replace professional advice. Always exercise caution and consult local authorities or experts for specific snake-related concerns.
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AJ: Welcome to another episode of All in San Diego, the podcast that highlights the people and places that make San Diego awesome.
We're your hosts, AJ and Sarah, and I want you to picture this. It is a hot Saturday morning in May. And you go at your front door, you're gonna head out to get into some adventures, and you look down and there's a freaking big, scary looking snake. What do you do? What do you do other than try to get a picture of it to post on social media and share it with your friends?
How do you handle the situation? Well, we've got a guest who's been answering that question for a very long time. In fact, he may be the answer to that question depending on what's going on when you come across a snake. Bruce Ireland is San Diego's own. Snake Wrangler and, uh, he's got a lot of stories to tell.
Thanks for joining us,
Bruce: Bruce. Thank you aj, and thank you Sarah. I, I really appreciate being here. It's a lot of fun and I'm just glad that, uh, some people have interest in snakes like I do and have for a very, very long time.
Sara: You like really are a snake wrangler. You have helped hundreds of San Diegos when they find themselves in that scary predicament, well, it's not scary for you, but scary for them. How did you get started doing this and how did it turn into the huge thing that it is now?
I got, we gotta hear this
Bruce: story. Yeah. So little backstory. I'm a Texas person that moved to San Diego. 30 years ago and in Texas, uh, I was passionate about snakes. I would look for snakes ever since I was about seven years old. And in Texas, there's lots of snakes, including lots of venomous snakes. Fast forward, I've been in San Diego about 30 years. Um, Still love snakes, always out looking for snakes. I hike, I'm a big outdoorsman. Um, but about six or seven years ago, uh, I realized kind of by accident that if a snake turns up in someone's yard or at a place preschool or at a playground, really the only option that was available to most people was to call nine one one and call the fire department.
Yeah. And you know, that struck me as odd because. You know, I'm a big advocate of first responders, fire people, uh, police firemen, and fire people are trained for medical emergencies, car accidents, home fires. That's not what they want to be called out for, for an hour, is to go and, and catch a rattlesnake.
And the very unfortunate part is most of the fire departments in San Diego County are required to kill them. And I thought there's gotta be a better way. And there wasn't, there, there really was no other option than to call the fire department. So, I decided, uh, we had a snake call right here by our home. A good friend of mine, he called and said, I know you like snakes. We have a snake in our garage. So Holly and my two girls came with us and videoed and took pictures of me just basically getting the snake into a bucket, taking it away.
Well, I decided to post a few of those pictures on next door. And that was it. It, I, I started getting phone calls first season, and I say season San Diego snake season starts about April and goes through about mid-November, so snake season one. We only had about, I think 50 actual calls where we removed Wow.
Snakes. Which season? Only 50. Yeah. That seems like a lot, right? Well, now it's north of 400. Wow. Um, and, and my, my service, uh, has broadened to not just Carlsbad, we're covering most of North County. And because of that, I've had to bring on other fellow, uh, minded, like-minded people, and I've trained, we now have 14 snake wranglers on my team.
AJ: All right, so what kind of snakes do we have around San Diego and how should people know if they need to call you, or it's just when they can chew off safely
Bruce: on their own?
No, that's a great question aj. So we're fortunate in the state of California, the only venomous snake that's a true threat to either humans or their pets are rattlesnakes. There's no other snakes in San Diego unless somebody's pet cobra or something gets out. But let's assume that doesn't happen. Only ones you have to worry about are rattlesnakes.
Uh, we have about four or five different kinds of rattlesnakes in San Diego County, but they're all gonna have that telltale ti sign, big head, giant head and tail that's gonna have a rattle on it. Most of the time, all the other snakes in San Diego are completely 100% harmless, but most people, um, don't know.
Really one from the other. Uh, they go out their back door. Like you said earlier, you see just a part of a snake coiled up behind a planter. Yeah, yeah. You're not gonna see a head or a tail. You have no idea. Right. So what we do is our number, our our phone number's now out there with a lot of people and.
I've made it such that if you don't know, just text me a picture or call me on FaceTime. Walk me out. I'll tell you what you have. If it's not a rattlesnake, typically I try to convince you to keep it because you don't know this, or maybe you do, but, but snakes are great for our environment. They basically are an amazing form of rodent control.
That's all that snakes eat for the most part, is mice, rats. Squirrels, gophers, which, you know, without snakes we'd quickly become overrun, so, if it's other than a rattlesnake, I try to convince 'em to keep it.
That's a 50 50. Most people say, thanks, we appreciate it, but no, please come get it. Right. So, so we go, we're good. Yeah. Yeah. A lot of people just are petrified of anything that doesn't have arms or legs and can move that fast. So, yeah. You know, we get calm, dude.
Sara: Seriously, they're so fast and they have no
They have no legs, no arms, and, and they stick their tongue out at you and, and, uh, You know, a lot of people that don't understand snakes, they just deem them as creepy or weird or strange animals. Like
Sara: they don't wanna really have anything to do with you, honestly. Right. I've heard that. But it's hard to process that in real time if you see one.
Bruce: Right. And the, and the thing about snakes is we've been taught a lot of us, or most of us from a young age, to fear them. Um, Hollywood has done an amazing, good job of putting the fear of God in us about snakes.
I mean, snakes, snakes, plane, snakes on plane and Conda, um, Indiana Jones, uh, you know, jungle Book. Yeah. The snake was always put in a very negative light. The Bible, I mean, yeah, the Bible, the snakes in general are deemed as evil or bad. Medusa, I mean, she had snakes in her air and you turned a stone. The truth is, Sarah, they want nothing to do with us.
They are just like any other wild animal. They prefer to get away from us. They do not jump. They do not chase. They do not bite us unless they feel threatened. They will never go out of their way to attack a human. I mean to them we are giant scary things that could hurt them.
AJ: When you and your team, uh, recover all of these snakes four or five a day, you alone Apparently, uh, where do you put 'em?
So I know we're
Bruce: not to go. Yeah, no, no, that's, that's a good question aj. So, so typically you can't take a snake more than two. Square miles from where you pull them from. Wow. There's been studies done, noted by me, uh, where they chip, they microchip snakes, they let 'em go further than that range, and they just kind of can't figure it out.
They can't survive. They don't know where water is, they don't know where shelter is, so their survival rate. According to the herpetologist studies that have been done, they say take 'em further than two miles. Their survival rate drops to 50 50. But ooh, up to that, I always say 50 50 is better than a shovel to the back of the head from a farm.
Sara: I know. Yeah. So plus that's so traumatic for the homeowner. I was thinking that as you were. It's awful explaining the process. I'm like, I wouldn't have thought about that. I guess your instinct is just call 9 1 1. Uh, who else would I call? But Yep, yep. That probably sticks with them. What an awful thing
Bruce: to witness.
To witness. Yeah. Yeah. And then, so, so within two miles, Typically what we do in most of the homes in Carlsbad, I'm very familiar with where the nature preserves are the canyons. So I know where to take that particular snake. If I'm called to an area that I don't know, uh, Google Earth is my friend, I basically, you know, find my location and then from there try to figure out within two miles where is a, uh, place that I can take 'em, where they'll be less likely to run into humans and live a good life.
AJ: First wrangle you had when you got called to a friend's house, you got there, the snake was in the garage. Pretty easy. Slam dunk. If you know what you're doing, you got the snake. That's probably most of your calls.
But imagine every once in a while there's a hairy one where you get there and you're like, oh boy, this, this is, this one's gonna be a challenge. Give me one of your big, like, how am I gonna deal with this? Hairy situations you find
Bruce: yourself bad. Okay, so, so two, two scenarios that scare the heck outta me.
One, they see a snake go up in the engine of their car. And I have two or three of those a year. The snakes, for whatever reason, go into the motor, you know, it's in there somewhere, you know, all you can do is open the hood and, and hope. Um, and, and I've had a few of those where, you know, you're looking around with a flashlight and you, oh God, just see a tiny little bit of skin, but then somehow you've gotta convince that snake to leave that engine block.
Um, usually it's a hose running water, and the problem is, oh, You're standing by a car in front of an open hood spraying water. Yes. You don't know where he's gonna come out. Oh, they've dropped right out at my feet before they've come out between my legs before sometimes they come straight up. Oh my god.
Out of the engine. So it's always a little sketchy. Um, the other one is, and we get a lot of calls for this, unfortunately, is they're stuck in garden netting. And garden netting is what people put around their. You know, precious vegetables and plants, so rabbits and squirrels and whatever else doesn't get in.
Well, what happens is it's just like fishing net. Oh, you know, gill nets that they use out to catch fish. So the snake goes through the hole, then can't get out, and then starts to panic and it gets twisted. Oh. So I arrive and I've got a rattlesnake that's now defensive. Super mad. Yeah. And I've gotta figure out how to use surgical scissors to cut.
This animal out of this netting without letting my hand get close enough to that mouth that it can bite me. And it's, it, my, my adrenaline gets going. Um, I usually need a cold drink after that one. Yeah.
Sara: I feel like the, the next natural question would be, have you ever been bit, you had to have with four, you know,
Bruce: thousands at this point.
So I always get that question by far in all my social media, uh, accounts. That's the question I get the most. Have you ever been bitten? And I always answer it this way, I've been bitten lots of times, but never by a venomous snake. Oh, nice. I've been bit, yeah, I, uh, I am very, very, Careful, but I'm also very aware of what a bite would mean both financially and medically.
To me it's a, a rattlesnake bite is no joke. Um, it requires three to five days in an intensive care unit. Typically, oh my God. The cost is around $200,000 now. For the treatment? For the treatment for the antivenom? Yeah. Oh my God. The antivenom per vial is about, 17 to $2,500 and typically a bite requires anywhere from 10 vials to 20 vials.
Whoa, depending, whoa. Never knew that. So, yeah, and it's shocking and I've taken it upon myself because I was like, you, Sarah. I didn't believe it when I heard that. So I said, I'm gonna go interview some bite victims. And now I've sat down with five different people here in North County, San Diego that have been bitten and their story is pretty much the same.
You know, the transport in either a helicopter or an ambulance, four to five days in an er. Then the anti venom. And the cost, and it's shocking. Now, granted, insurance will cover, uh, some majority, a lot don't know. Like one vial. Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. I, I never ask, I've never said, what was your out of pocket?
Just the overall bill. I wanted to hear that number. That number's, you know, right around 1 75 to 200,000. Okay.
AJ: With that in mind, cuz that's way worse than I thought it was. I assumed how you go to the er, they, you know, you're, it's probably outpatient. You're outta there few hours later. Yeah. I mean, it sounded horrible.
No one wants to get bit, I didn't realize it was that serious. So yeah. I, I would've asked this anyways, but now I'm really asking it. Uh, uh, what can we be doing to make, to ensure we're safe
Bruce: from snakes? I'm, yeah, that's a very good question. So, two answers. One is, Your home. You want to keep your home as snake free as possible, and then if you're an outdoors, Enthusiasts, like most people, a lot of people in San Diego are, it's two different things.
Your home, uh, it's virtually impossible to keep snakes away, but there are things you, you can do to mitigate it. Um, one is you have to keep your yard clean and clear. You can't have firewood piles, you can't have piles of trash. You can't have building supplies piled up. Anything that attracts rodents.
Intern attracts snakes. The only thing that really, really truly deters snakes is a product called snake fencing. Mm-hmm. And it basically is installed around the perimeter of your yard.
It should be installed professionally. Uh, you can't just half it and, you know, have your, your gardener do it. It's, it's very specialized. One quarter inch gauge fencing that goes around your yard. It has to be trenched into the ground about six inches. Oh wow. And then be about 30 inches above. And that's going to keep out. Even our biggest snakes in the county, um, And then if you're out in nature, That's a whole different thing.
Um, a lot of us like to go hiking around San Diego, and if you do, you're gonna see snakes. Um, the best thing to do is just leave 'em alone. Right? Take a picture, enjoy it. Consider yourself lucky that you got to see a wild animal. It's the same as you saw Bobcat or a kitto. You're not gonna throw rocks at it.
You're not gonna try to hit it with a stick. Apply the same thing. Don't, don't do anything stupid to engage the snake, and you'll be fine if you need to get where. It's on the other side of the snake and it's stretched across this trail. Just wait it out for a few minutes. Typically, they're just warming up in the sun and then they're gonna move by.
If it doesn't move on and you don't have the option of going back the way you came, you know, you can maybe go in the bushes around it, but the problem is if you step off the trail. You might step right into another one. Yeah. So, um, again, bites to humans are very, very rare. A a couple stats in the United States, there's about 8,000 venomous snakes, venomous snake bites a year.
Okay. Of those. Only six to eight people actually die. So the okay. The chance of dying. Okay. From a snake bite, you have a better chance literally of being struck by lightning and dying, right? Huh? Yeah. So, and and of those 8,000, they say about 60% of those were avoidable. Somebody decided, hold my beer, I'm gonna grab the snake.
They went like
Sara: jackass style and we're like Darren and Lar ear.
Bruce: Exactly. Okay. And, and, and when you go in for a snake bite, they always. Take blood to make sure you're not on drugs or alcohol. And the interesting thing that comes out of this is 60% of all snake bites have two chemicals in common.
Testosterone and alcohol. Yeah. So it's, I believe it. It's it's young men between the ages of 16 and 25. Had a couple beers. Oh my God. And now they're gonna snake, wrangle this rattlesnake because that's the cool thing to do. And then they get bitten. And the snakes to blame that horrible evil snake bit my mm-hmm.
My precious child. Yeah. So they are very
AJ: avoidable. I like any problem I can solve by waiting it out. That's my kind strategy. I
Bruce: just have to wait it out. This one I've got, so there you
AJ: go. I'll remember that tip. And I, I want, I wanna make sure everyone, if if it's fine with you, we're gonna put your number in the, uh, in the description below this podcast and or video so people have it.
Cause that's, yeah, that's great. You wanna have it ahead of time, right? You don't be scrambling looking, going through Apple Podcasts, didn't they? Snake when you actually see a, a snake. So put it in your phone, have some, if you're in the Greater North County area, you may have Bruce personally come and help you.
You may have one of his other guys, and at the very least, you can have some guidance no matter where you are. Right? It's what calls goes. Hey, can you, can
Bruce: you walk me through what I might be looking at? You know aj that's a cool point too. And, and all my wranglers, they're all passionate about nature Wildlife.
One of my guys is a, also a guide at the Wild Animal Park, so that man knows so much about anything that lives and breathes on this planet. But all of my team, and there's guys and girls, but I'll say guys, All of my guys are, uh, very versed in San Diego snakes, you know, so any questions or, you know, we always try when we show up at someone's home to, if they're willing to listen, drop some education about why they're important, you know, what they are, what, what they do for our environment.
Um, and most people. Once they get a little education, the fear starts to subside and they're not so scary because now you know a little bit about 'em. You know, the more you know about anything, the less frightening it is.
Sara: I feel better already. I mean, I don't wanna be a part of your team or anything, but like, I feel I feel better already.
And you can also find Bruce on Instagram Wrangler. Bruce, just search
Bruce: for that. Yeah. Wrangler underscore Bruce. Yep.
Sara: Holy moly. I had no idea. There were so many people who were obsessed with snakes. You have so many followers and I just have to point out, you have a day job like you volunteer doing this.
Bruce: Well, I, I, I, I am able to do it because of my team. Uh, when I was trying to do it alone, it was a lot of it was, uh, covid. So I, I didn't really have to worry about my day job because my industry shut down.
But now I've got some amazing people that support our efforts and. You know, typically from nine in the morning till five in the afternoon, I'm not able to go on calls myself, but one of my team is always available. Um, so it's just worked out really well.
And Sarah, don't get too comfortable.
I know how you get when you're out camping and drinking. You, you, I don't want you to be too, too cocky about this. Cause I could see you going for a snake and ended up being a statistic
Sara: that test stop. Hold my chardonnay. Hold my
AJ: chardonnay. Totally. Absolutely. All right. The number will be in the contacts as well as his social lengths.
We, I'll give it to you right now while you're listening. You can find him on Instagram at wrangler underscore Bruce. Uh, we talk to people that make San Diego awesome. You're making San Diego better for, for, for residents. For these reptiles that you love. Yeah, and for our first responders. Joking aside, you're doing some pretty awesome work and we appreciate
Bruce: you doing it.
Thank you, aj. Thank you so much, Sarah. It was so much fun.