Danielle Wall holding a black-and-white king snake.

High Desert Snake Wrangler Saves Rattlesnakes, Educates Community

How one woman is educating people across the High Desert as she transports rattlesnakes to safety.

Lisa Marie Hart Attractions

Danielle Wall holding a black-and-white king snake.

Danielle Wall holds a 6-foot gopher snake.

Everyone in the High Desert has Danielle Wall’s phone number. She has shared it on live radio and posted it online. Airbnb owners display it for their guests. Even pest control defers to her. When the warning sound of a rattler bellows a little too close to home, the “Snake Lady” is only a call away.

This summer marks Wall’s sixth season as a self-taught snake wrangler, capturing the area’s most feared snakes from private properties and carefully, kindly relocating them. “It’s about the animals,” she says. “They’re not mean; they’re a fraction of our size, and they’re scared. They are potentially dangerous, so fear is valid. But a lot of people just don’t know enough about the animal.”

Wall — whose coverage zone stretches from Joshua Tree through Yucca Valley and Pioneertown, over to Rimrock, and up to Landers — releases the limbless reptiles near a food source, if possible, and within a 1-mile radius, ensuring their best chance of survival. She refuses to charge for her service. “It’s free to kill a snake,” Wall likes to say. “But most people want an option to get them moved instead.” She doesn’t expect people to love rattlesnakes like she does; she only hopes they will value them as living creatures, fulfilling their predatory function as rat patrol.

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Wall transports a rattlesnake.

Peak rattlesnake season in the High Desert runs from roughly May to October. “The first warm day in spring, when temperatures get into the 80s, high season begins for the park,” says Michael Vamstad, wildlife ecologist at Joshua Tree National Park. The desert has been their home, and their place in this ecosystem, for millions of years, at times providing sustenance for the indigenous Cahuilla. Of the 250 to 300 rattlesnake bites reported statewide by the California Poison Control Center each year, the center records only one or two deaths.

“Dogs, horses, mosquitoes, bees — literally everything kills more people than rattlesnakes,” Wall says. “They actively avoid us, and yet they get the worst reputation.”

A typical day has her hopping in and out of her truck, relocating snakes by securing them in a locked container, giving them some water, and hiking them into undeveloped terrain. She can read these creatures well, so they have become fairly predictable, but only if kept within sight. A half-second is all it takes for a speckled, Mojave, or sidewinder rattlesnake to slither into a rock crevice or under a bush where she may never find it. Callers lean toward the nervous and emotionally charged, with fanciful, panic-fueled scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark flashing through their minds.

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A black-and-white king snake, known for eating rattlesnakes.

As real as it feels, fear does not equate to danger. “Snakes don’t attack,” Wall says. (Vamstad confirms, he has never heard of a snake attacking a human unprovoked.) “They are not aggressive or angry, just out to protect themselves,” Wall explains. “They think if they freeze that you can’t see them, and you won’t hurt them.” Essentially, their defenses are often misunderstood as offenses. It’s a message she has spread emphatically since first moving a snake six years ago.

Backing up to her youth in the Bay Area, the Snake Lady was known as the Bug Girl. Creepy crawlers fascinated her. Teachers would ask her to remove insects from their classrooms, and in third grade, she “invented” what she called a Critter Getter, designed so people could catch and release bugs instead of squashing them. After completing college coursework in entomology — though she never felt totally comfortable in the confines of academia — she stopped attending classes. “I saw a rattlesnake in the road and almost hit it,” she recalls of her life’s abrupt turning point. Instinct, and 23-year-old impulsiveness, kicked in. She grabbed a creosote branch and persuaded it out of harm’s way. Soon after, she saw a post on Facebook by someone who needed help with a snake. She asked if they would give her a chance to move it alive and arrived with a 5-foot metal rod and a bucket.

Hooks and 2-foot tongs comprise her current tool kit. More than half a decade of wrangling has honed her swift, grab-and-contain technique. Wall spends more time calming and educating residents than securing snakes. “It generally takes me about 5 seconds [to contain a snake],” she says. “Nine out of 10 times, it’s as simple as walking up to it and picking it up.”

Of course, no one should approach a snake or attempt its removal without training, she emphasizes. Vamstad also warns that, if cornered, snakes will try to escape and could head in your direction. If you can safely leave it be, Wall reasons, why not? “Snakes are attracted to the water we use outdoors,” she says. “That snake you finally saw has potentially been living in your yard for years. You’ll probably never see it again.”

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A king snake slithers over Wall's hat.

Wall doesn’t service hiking trails. If a rattlesnake blocks your path, she suggests keeping your distance and waiting it out, taking an alternate route, or, if you must, tossing the slightest amount of water or sand toward the snake to let it know you can see it. In the rare event of a bite, Vamstad advises, seek medical care. “Don’t ice, don’t tourniquet, and never try to suck out the venom.”

As a volunteer, Wall aims to provide elementary and middle school children with a better understanding of snakes. Continuing her own studies, she pores over textbooks and maintains a long-time expert mentor. Wall estimates she has moved more than 1,000 rattlesnakes, all without a bite.

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Wall sits with Worf, a Southern Pacific rattlesnake that she keeps for educational purposes. 


Wall points out a shedding tail on a speckled rattler.  Similar to fingernails, snakes’ rattles can become brittle and break.

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A rosy boa and other snakes await transport. 


Wall carries a gopher snake through the desert.


A 6-foot-long gopher snake on Wall's arm.

Wrapping up her sixth wrangling season, she insists this is no reality show — though she has become a local celebrity of sorts, unmistakable in her strappy crop tops, denim shorts, cowboy boots, and portfolio of tattoos. Wall has a track record of turning down offers that feel inauthentic. “I had 12 producers call me in one month, but I didn’t want to be part of it,” she says. “I’m always dusty, and it’s mentally exhausting, but I truly love it. The reason I do this isn’t for attention, it’s out of a love for the snakes.” A documentary could be getting off the ground, but Wall is cautious of grandiose goals, preferring to put the snakes first and live in the moment. In the field, that’s her only choice.

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Snakes actively ignore contact with people.

Donations help to cover the cost of gas — she logs more than 30,000 miles a year on her truck — while a real estate investment keeps her afloat. The snakes, and a shifting attitude about them, buoy her energy and her spirit. “I see progress,” she says. “Just seven or eight years ago, some people were seen as heroes for killing these animals. Now, I see more people with the willingness to learn about them.”

Where danger can lurk in the eye of the beholder, be smart, be safe, Wall says, and be respectful of nature’s perfect balance.