AUSTIN, Texas - There have been several snake sightings in the Austin area this week, many of them venomous. Two senior police officers with Austin Police Department's Motorcycle Unit came across a scaly surprise on their way out of the police academy Wednesday.
“He was just to the right of my front tire, and officer Debes hadn't seen it, so I told him, and he wanted to go back and see it. That's probably why he was the chosen one,” said senior police officer Chantal Locke.
“There was a city truck that pulled up and he had a shovel, and I'm like, ‘Alright, go get your shovel.’ He didn't want to do it, so officer Locke volunteered me,” said senior police officer Vance Debes.
Although officer Debes isn't exactly a snake expert, he stepped up to the plate to help the reptile out of harm's way. “I'm petrified of snakes,” Debes said.
“We just wanted to give him a chance to get away and he was there for so long that we just wanted him gone. We didn't want him to get run over,” said Locke.
“I was just trying to scare it at first to be honest with you,” Debes said.
The officers quickly realized that the sound of a scraping shovel wasn't enough to convince the rattler to slither away. “It was pretty upset. He didn't realize what we were trying to do,” said Debes.
They turned to plan B. “I was able to get the shovel underneath him and I was able to toss him a little bit. I think I did that twice and got it more toward the edge of the tree line,” Debes said.
Eventually the large rattlesnake gave up and escaped into some nearby brush. Officer Debes said although he won the standoff, he doesn't suggest anyone tries to handle a venomous snake without professional help. “If you see a snake, especially a rattlesnake or copperhead or any kind of venomous snake, leave it alone. Call the authorities. Get somebody out there that's properly trained,” said Debes.
“You can simply call 9-1-1,” Locke added.
The officers weren't the only ones who found an unexpected serpent Wednesday. The chief of police in Jonestown said a coral snake was located at their public works department. There have also been a few coral snake sightings in the Barton Creek greenbelt.
“If you don't have to approach it, don't,” said Locke.
One thing to note is there are harmless snake species with similar marking to coral snakes. The color patterns are the best way to tell them apart. The red and yellow bands touch on a coral snake, where on harmless snake species red and black bands touch.
Authorities remind people to check their surroundings when outdoors and take precautions while spending time in wooded areas.
Texas Parks and Wildlife said snakes do not attack or chase people.
They usually strike only when surprised or cornered.