Diving headlong into the bushes to rescue a snake isn’t an ideal way most people prefer to spend an afternoon. Buda native Brent Ormand, however, relishes such an opportunity.
Having dedicated his life to snake conservation, education and rehabilitation, Ormand and his team at Snakes of Hays County are on a mission to protect those cold-blooded creatures from the perils of rapid development in Hays County.
This encroachment in habitat means a variety of snakes from rattlesnakes to cottonmouths are often in need of help to escape the neighborhoods they slither into. The job, however, is an about-face for Ormand, who said he feared snakes when he was younger.
“These are animals that are more scared of you than you are of them,” Ormand said. “When we get called out to rescue a snake, the most important thing for us is teaching people that these creatures are not here to hurt you.”
Besides being the team called to rescue a pesky rattlesnake from under someone’s house, Snakes of Hays County’s mission is to educate people on how to protect and respect the animals.
At the office, Ormand and Joshua Sarkardehi regularly analyze the progress of the snakes they rescue. One snake was recently caught in a lawnmower blade and has a long scar on its back to prove it.
Sarkardehi said a mammal would likely not survive a wound like that. But in order to survive for 90 million years, a creature must have the survival instincts of a snake.
Through care and rehabilitation, the snake is now healing. Within a few more sheds of his skin, he will be ready to return home to the rural Texas brush.
“That’s what it’s all about, giving these animals the protection they deserve,” Ormand. “The more we can educate people on these ancient creatures, the better shot we have of protecting them.”
Some could look at Ormand as a snake wrangler, but he laughs at the assumption. He instead sees his team as educators and conservationists first. When his team has spare time, they go to neighboring schools to teach the younger generation how to care for the animals.
“When I was young, I was scared of snakes. But I overcame my fear and began to love them. Now they are my life,” Ormand said.
After he catches a snake on a property, he will speak to the landowners about the animal.
One of the most satisfying parts of the job is seeing people’s fear and loathing turn into appreciation for the animals.
When these snakes are healthy, Ormand releases them far away from neighborhoods and back in their habitat.
Sssslithering into the limelight
When he’s not hosting educational forums, rehabilitating or saving snakes, Ormand often imparts his knowledge on the biggest sets of Hollywood movies and shows.
Ormand and his team have been hired to protect cast and crew of TV shows and major films from snakes during filming days. Ormand has helped with productions such as HBO’s “The Leftovers” and AMC’s “The Son.”
“We’re seeing more and more movies shot in the Texas Hill Country in remote areas where producers can shoot nature in its untouched beauty,” Ormand said. “My job is to get on set and clear the area of any snakes before filming. I’m protecting the crew from snakes and I’m protecting the snakes from the crew.”
Ormand said these snakes have never encountered humans, so protecting them and their habitat is essential while being on set. Once filming is complete, the snakes return home.
More than a dozen species of snakes call Central Texas home, most of which are non-venomous.
Protecting the wildlife and crew during a filming in rural Texas is one of the most pivotal components of a functioning production, something Ormand takes pride in.
“Once my work is done and I retire, I want people to remember me as someone who taught our society how to coexist with wildlife,” Ormand said. “I want people to replace that fear with appreciation.”