‘Snake charmer’ was ‘only bit once’ while removing snake from Walmart carts, TX cops say

There have been 42 snakebite victims visit Texas Health Resources emergency departments in 2019. Experts say snakes are highly beneficial and will leave people alone if they stay out of their way. By

A Walmart cart attendant was collecting shopping carts from the return area when the employee’s “loud scream” was heard by an officer across the parking lot, police said.

That scream was prompted by a “large rat snake” that slithered its way into a couple shopping carts, the Northeast Police Department posted to Facebook.

A photo from the department, which serves Krugerville and Cross Roads in Denton County, shows the snake tangled between two Walmart shopping carts.

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The officer who heard the scream went to check on the employee at about dusk on May 25, according to the post.

The officer then “enlisted the help of John Heckaman, a ‘snake charmer,’ to relocate the snake” from the Cross Roads Walmart, WFAA reported. That’s about 45 miles north of Dallas.

Heckaman, of Savannah, Texas, “was only bit once” while helping move the snake away from the carts, police said on Facebook.

A photo posted by police shows Heckaman holding the snake, one hand by its head.

The post has been shared more than 1,000 times since it was posted Saturday evening, and Heckaman made his own post about the event to “set the story straight.”

He wrote that he was at Walmart picking up snacks for an upcoming road trip. While in the parking lot, though, he saw the officer and a few Walmart workers looking at the carts, he said.

“That’s when I saw the snake,” Heckaman continued. “I knew the snake was non venomous so I then asked if they would like for me to remove it, Of course they said yes.”

While trying to untangle the snake from the carts, Heckaman said the snake bit him, but it was “no big deal.”

He then finished untangling the snake before taking it to a nearby field and releasing the critter, according to his post.

“Next thing I know I’m all over Facebook and then in the news as the ‘Snake Charmer,’” Heckaman wrote. “I am in no way a snake specialists or a snake charmer I was just simply offering to help. I didn’t want anyone to kill the snake or anyone to panic and hurt themselves. i would like to thank everyone for the kind comments, but most of all the Northeast Police officer who gave me the ridiculous nickname.”

“Recent heavy rains are forcing a lot of snakes out of their natural habitats,” police said, “and this goes to show, that they can turn up just about anywhere.”

“The Texas rat snake is one of the most commonly encountered species of non-venomous snake in North Texas and this is especially true for the Dallas Fort Worth area,” according to University of Texas at Arlington’s Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center.

They can grow to be over 6-feet long, but despite that large size, they “pose no threat to humans,” according to the research center.

Rat snakes help control “disease spreading rodents,” which means “it should not be killed or molested,” the center says.

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