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Rattlesnake wrangler Danielle Wall wants you to think differently about snakes

Danielle Wall
Danielle Wall
Danielle Wall

Danielle Wall is Joshua Tree's own rattlesnake wrangler.

She has a very popular Instagram account where she preaches the rattlesnake gospel teaching people everywhere that rattlesnakes are not aggressive and don't want to bite you.

She does it all often while holding rattlesnakes or coaxing them out of car engines or out from under porches. Wall does this work for donations because of California law and has become something of a celebrity in this part of the world — especially after being profiled by the Los Angeles Times last month.

All of it is helping get the word out about rattlesnakes, she told The Show, and she’s seeing people change their tunes.

Conversation highlights

DANIELLE WALL: My whole life I've always done animal rescue and volunteer work, and I had just recently decided to get out of the dog-rescuing world. I used to help with death row pit bulls. And the next week I almost ran over a rattlesnake on the road, and the universe answered my question of which animal do I need to help next. And I almost ran it over. So I pulled over and I poked a stick at it and it just left. And I thought, well, what's the big deal about these animals? Why is everything so intense?

And when I did some online research, I found out that the community's general attitude towards them was to kill them. And that is still what our animal control does and what our fish and wildlife even allow animal control to do is still to kill these animals. So I just said ... "How hard can it be? I'll do it for free. And here we are on my seventh snake season, still doing it. And it's gotten easier and the attitude of everyone has changed, which really keeps me doing this work. Now, the general attitude is to save them and not kill them.

Do you think that's because of you and people know of you in this, in your community?

WALL: I just think it's not because of me, but there's absolutely going to be a correlation. Yes, I, I do. A lot of people have come to me saying that my videos and learning about them and seeing that it's not this machismo dangerous animal that everyone's been led to believe. And they do credit me for helping them just see a very different perspective. Because that's all it really is is changing this fear-based perspective and how demonized these creatures have been since the beginning of time. And realizing just a little bit of education can change absolutely everything.

Danielle Wall
Danielle Wall
Danielle Wall

I am one of these people who has always been afraid of snakes. So talk a little bit about your own personality. Have you always been kind of attracted to things that people are afraid of or dislike?

WALL: Oh, absolutely. My whole life, I was the bug girl. I absolutely loved picking up every bug. I would put egg shells on a snail that had a crushed shell. And so, yeah, that was definitely in my nervous system to not be as reactionary to, to a lot of the creepy crawlies that people have that primal reaction to. And that's so normal to be afraid of snakes. It's what's kept us alive long before hospitals were around or anything. My goal is not to make you like these snakes. No one has to love these animals. We just have to learn how to respect them, what they do for the environment and not have this innate reaction with just a little bit of education and knowing how we can stay safe with them.

So you're saying this is about the environment, right? This is about the changing desert, what you're seeing there in the Mojave desert we're seeing definitely here in the Sonoran Desert. This massive influx of people to a place like Joshua Tree has probably dramatically changed it and affected rattlesnakes and other wildlife as well. What's it been like to watch? What have you seen?

WALL: Oh, I think the worst part — and it's not even directly correlated to rattlesnakes — but it is the use of rodent poison. Especially in the last few years when we had this major influx of people moving out here. A lot of the new folks that come out here not having any experience with these animals or the very, very fragile ecosystem we have, they kill off the apex predators and wonder why the rodents are chewing up their car wires every night.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.
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