Bear Valley Springs ‘Snake Guys’ on mission to protect snakes, help community

Local News

BEAR VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. (KGET) — Some groups rescue dogs. Others rescue birds. And then there’s the Bear Valley Springs “Snake Guys.”

Chris Budge and Debbie Swarens, two volunteers with the group, spend much of their time responding to rattlesnake calls across the greater Tehachapi and Bear Valley Springs areas. “It’s never a good thing when you find a snake in your house,” Budge said as she chuckled.”

As of Tuesday, the volunteer group had caught exactly 175 rattlesnakes and an additional 100 non-venomous snakes. The 275 snakes captured this year already is more than the number of snakes the group captured last year. Never once has a Snake Guys volunteer been bitten.

“You’re always cautious,” said Swarens. “You don’t want to get bit and be respectful of the snakes. And yeah — it can be a little frightening at times.”

Agreeing with Swarens, Budge noted that “something calm just comes over us, and when you’re in that space, you want to focus and get the snake. The worst thing to happen is to leave without the snake. You never want that to happen.”

The Bear Valley Springs “Snake Guys” was founded 31 years ago by Ron Hayton. A lover of snakes since he was a young boy, Hayton founded the group. Upon catching the snakes, the volunteers do not kill the slithering animals. Instead, the volunteers take care of the snakes of them before releasing them back into the wild in non-populated areas with approval from the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

“We do it because we care about the animals,” Hayton said. “We’ve moved into their backyard. We shouldn’t just move into their backyard and kill them. We should move into their backyard and help them out. So that’s what we do,” he continued.

The cold-blooded creatures, per Hayton, need to keep warm in the surrounding environment. The drought and hot temperatures have likely amplified snake sightings with more snakes out and about more than usual in the mountains and on the valley floor.

During a ride-along with 17 News, Budge and Swarens responded to two homes in the Bear Valley Springs area. On both calls, the women successfully and safely captured the snakes. Residents were grateful.

“It was perfect timing. I’m so grateful because they’re the experts,” said Christine Clark of Bear Valley Springs. Her neighbor Scott Walter, who also called the “Snake Guys” when a snake was seen on his property, agreed.

“You call the ‘Snake Guys’ and you’re good to go.”

Members of the community can directly reach out to Ron Hayton and the Bear Valley Springs “Snake Guys” at 661-203-4468. As this is a strictly volunteer group, they take monetary donations via check or on venmo at @Ronald-Hayton.

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