Trapper John takes the bite out of nuisance animals.
Story originally appeared in the Herald Guide, by Anna Thibodeaux.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that poisonous snakes top the list of nuisance animals in St. Charles Parish where water is nearly everywhere - and so are they.
“The swamps are jam packed full of the cottonmouth,” said St. Rose’s Trapper John the Hog Man, also known as John Schmidt. He is a nuisance hunter, but he prefers the title mitigation specialist.
The problem with these snakes, as well other creatures, is they like the creature comforts, too.
“They’re coldblooded so they want to be cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold,” Schmidt said. “The house or garage is one of those places where it can find this. I don’t know of one place in St. Charles Parish where there is no danger of the cottonmouth.”
Their worst worrisome trait is they are aggressive biters and a major threat when the animal is so poisonous to humans.
An encounter in Bayou Sauvage left Schmidt with a lasting reminder of why he stays ever watchful of these reptiles.“I was walking in these water lilies over my knees and there was this snake wrapped around me and trying to get his teeth into me through my blue jeans,” Schmidt recalled. “I grabbed him by the middle of his body and threw it.”
Despite two small marks with venom in his leg, he still went on to remove pigs out of traps and treated his wounds later. Although Schmidt didn’t go to the hospital, he admitted even this small amount of venom gave him a tough time and the neurological damage that can come with a bite can last a lifetime.
Just as Trapper John learned years ago, he advises people to keep their eyes open, watch every step and always be aware of their surroundings.
“If you don’t step on them or too close or reach in and put your hand near them, you should be okay,” he said.
Snakes are clever and agile, capable of getting to where they want to go, posing an even greater threat to the unwary.
Schmidt recalled being called to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to remove one of them from an office desk drawer.
“One of the things you can do for snakes is do a perimeter check,” he said. Look for openings they can use to enter the house and block or close them. “Most houses have an updated sewer system and outside there is a cleanout or opening to shove a cable in to clean when they are clogged. Rats can enter this way, too, and the snakes will follow rats and mice.”
Although raccoons are often treated like pets, Schmidt warned they are known carriers of rabies and can attack when frightened. Less known is they can introduce round worms into the environment, even in swimming pools, that can be passed on to humans.
“That is a real threat to people,” he said. “Normally, it’s misdiagnosed and when it’s found it’s too late, it’s life threatening. This is so small, people don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late.”
Schmidt said don’t feed raccoons or encourage them to stay in the immediate area.
This isn’t the only cute creature that people accept into their space that can pose a threat.
Squirrels are also sometimes fed like pets and encouraged to stay in the area, but Trapper John said it became a different story when they tunneled into an attic and caused damage.
Schmidt recalled a man in Covington “who thought it was cute” having them in his attic until he came home one day and the house was flooded. They had chewed through copper waterlines, as well as other wiring that also posed a fire threat. Trapper John caught 15 of them and posted photographs on his website warning others of what these lovable creatures could do to a residence.
Wild hogs and the damage they can cause has been in the news often, as well as Trapper John talking about being hired to control their ballooning population.
Also, coyotes can also pose problems for residents, particularly if they have pets because they will use them as food. Schmidt said they’re population isn’t growing in the parish as in other areas because he helps control their number, but he also advised they are also beneficial because they eat a lot of vermin like rats and mice.
Nutria are also among Louisiana’s best known space invaders.Trapper John advises, “Shoot as many as you can, especially at night. If you can’t shoot them, trap them. Sometimes the combination of shooting and trapping is the answer.”
Among the area’s more exotic invaders is the Mexican free-tailed bat.
During their migration into the state, they can be just about anywhere, he said. They are known for hiding in cracks behind bricks in numbers that can wildly range from a handful to thousands, posing the threat of rabies and diseases from their feces, he said. They are federally protected and require special removal.
Other winged things can be a nuisance, too.
Starlings can get into any crack in an attic or open pipe and create a fire hazard, Schmidt said.
“If in the attic, they’ll build a nest that looks bigger than a beaver’s nest sometimes and that becomes a fire threat, too,” he said. “Very few people would even think that would be possible.”