Daniel Schwindt reached into the dark confines of a built-in patio grill, feeling for the body of the snake that had taken up residence inside.
The McPherson resident recently launched a Facebook page called McPherson Area Snake Removal, volunteering his time and expertise to identify and remove snakes from homes and businesses around the county at no charge.
"I would say it's been a lifelong fascination," Schwindt said. "We moved out into the country when I was pretty young. I found a snake under a log and I've been hunting after them ever since."
Schwindt invites people to text him pictures of any snake so he can identify what kind it is — and if it's venomous.
"You see them so little that, here in town, you can usually safely assume it's (not venomous)," Schwindt said. "If you take the time to learn their characteristics, it's fairly easy to tell which ones are venomous and which ones aren't."
In all his years hunting snakes around McPherson, Schwindt said he has never found a venomous snake — though he admitted they can be found, especially close to the Kanopolis area.
Water snakes have been one of the most common kinds of snake Schwindt has been called to remove.
"I think those are the ones that people assume are dangerous, for whatever reason," Schwindt said. "...People see a snake in the water, so they think it's a water moccasin."
Water moccasins are not native to Kansas, but no matter what kind of snake you see, the best thing to do is leave it alone, Schwindt advised. Snakes provide the benefit of controlling the rodent population in an area.
Still, Schwindt doesn't mind coming out and picking up snakes that have made their homes in a place they are not wanted. It is a service that is aiding to ease the minds of those who call 911 when they spot a snake.
"I would say that most of the calls I've gotten are from police dispatch," Schwindt said.
Schwindt's assistance also reduce the amount of time that had been spent by deputies who may or may not have had any experience with snakes.
"Technically, legally, we don't have to respond — it depends on the officer," said McPherson County Sheriff Jerry Montagne "...(Schwindt) said he will come out anywhere in the county and pick up a snake ... and he has no problem doing it."
Using a grabber and gloves when necessary, Schwindt moves the snakes into a bucket which has air holes punched in its lid.
"The water snakes put out a musk — a nasty smell — so I don't enjoy handling them too much," Schwindt said.
Often, homeowners watch the process from a safe distance.
"A lot of people don't even come out of the house," Schwindt said.
That was not the case when Schwindt responded to the home in Moundridge — and both the caller and Schwindt were surprised when he finally pulled out not one, but two snakes from the grill.
After placing the snakes in his bucket, Schwindt drove them to a nearby area for relocation.
"You don't really want to move them around (too much), it's not good for them," Schwindt said.
For more information about McPherson Area Snake Removal, call or text 620-755-8832 or visit its Facebook page.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.