Two front door, snake encounters at a home in Four Points

A western diamondback rattlesnake at the front door of Birjis Rashed of Steiner Ranch.

Four Points News

A Steiner Ranch resident came home from work one recent afternoon and didn’t know she put her purse down inches away from a rattlesnake at her front door.

“I set my heavy purse down on the door mat and was just about unlocking the front door when I saw the snake coiled on the door mat right beside my purse,” said Birjis Rashed.

Rashed — a professor at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, a blogger at Hot Sweet Spicy Recipes, and a mother of two daughters — freaked out, picked up her purse and ran inside through the garage door.

She announced to the others at home about the presence of the snake and not to open the front door. They ventured back slowly hoping the snake was gone, but finding it comfortable and still sitting by the front door.

Rashed — who hates and fears all sorts of reptiles, snakes and lizards — looked up the brown and white, diamond-marked snake to find out that it was in fact a western diamondback rattlesnake and that it was venomous.

“I wanted it gone,” she said. She ran back in and started making noise by drumming on the door with a wooden spoon, hoping the snake would move away but that didn’t help. Finally it slithered away with some water pressure from her garden hose.

That was in mid April and that was not the end of the Rashed’s snake encounters.

One morning, exactly three weeks later, a rattlesnake crawled back and curled up in the same spot by the Rashed’s front door. By the size and type of snake and the location it was sitting, they assumed it was the same snake

“This snake had started acting like our house pet. And no, we had no plans to adopt a snake,” Rashed said. She and her husband have two daughters: Sahar is studying aerospace engineering at University of Texas and Zia will be a sophomore at Vandegrift.

“We were not comfortable about just letting (the snake) go this time,” Rashed said.

This time, the family adopted a different plan: trapping and containing the snake instead of just shooing it away.

“My husband trapped this snake under a plastic cake box, and to make sure the snake didn’t just crawl off and escape, he kept a rock on top of the box,” said Rashed, who has a blog called Hot Sweet Spicy Recipes.Professor at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

She warns caution for anyone deciding to do this because if a bigger snake is being contained, it might be easier for them to strike and bite the one containing them.

After containment by the cake box, the next step for the Rashed’s was removal.

She thought about the Steiner neighbor who would help people with snake removal but he moved. So she called Travis County Animal Control but found out snakes or possums and like, do not fall under their jurisdiction for removal. She tried to call the Austin Zoo and the Snake Farm, but it was too early and they weren’t open yet. Finally she found references of snake services on social media.

Ruthann Panipinto is a local, Four Points snake catcher.

She called and texted and left messages on all the numbers but finally hired the services of Ruthann Panipinto, a local Four Points neighbor.

Panipinto arrived with the tools for taking away the snake and since the snake was already contained she got her job done in a few minutes.

“She congratulated us on containing the snake and thanked us for not killing it,” Rashed said.

Panipinto is an official snake catcher. She had been fascinated with snakes as a young child in Long Island, N.Y. She told Rashed that she found she had the ability to pick up snakes fast and fearlessly and bring them home much to the angst of her parents.

After moving to Texas years later, Panipinto trained with Tim Cole of Austin Reptile Service on proper handling of venomous snakes with the proper equipment and then acquired a license from the state of Texas for this job.

“Yes, snakes can be deadly and few may be venomous, but remember human beings are more superior beings than snakes,” Panipinto said. She encourages those who encounter snakes to identify the type of snake and if time, take a photo and look it up that way. If it’s a poisonous snake, take more precaution. Then contain or trap the snake and contact the snake removal services.

In addition to the snake being removed, Rashed ordered Ortho Snake B Gon and sprinkled it all over her yard, house and garden parameter to keep snakes off. There are several similar products on the market that claim to keep the snakes at bay.

“Do not know yet if it’s helping, but hoping I don’t have similar such snake encounters,” Rashed said. She hopes her experiences can help others prevent or prepare for similar situations.

Snake removal contacts:
Ruthann Panipinto
(512) 439 – 9805
Rodney Reid
(512) 554 – 6407
Ron Hornbaker
(650) 388 – 0220
Tim Cole
(512) 837 – 6253