ALBANY, GA (WALB) – They've been on the planet for millions of years but still for many of us they haven't earned our respect as an important part of the ecosystem. They're Snakes, a reptile some love to hate. But why?
I'm holding in my hand a 5-foot King Snake. I would be lying to you if I told you I was not nervous. But for the past few weeks I've learned these animals aren't out to chase us down and bite us. They just want to be left alone, and a few people even learn to love them.
Killing the myth that the only good snake a dead snake.
They don't walk. They certainly can't run, but they've managed to conquer land and sea.
"I started liking snakes and found out it could be like Steve Irwin," said Nancy Frahlman.
Nancy Frahlman found comfort in caring for snakes after her husband died. "He lived for 21-years in a wheel chair so I did things here, and after my husband died I told my kids I've got to do something different."
And she is different, feeding her ball pythons at the kitchen table, just as if they were children.
"Now they can be kind of dangerous, they'll miss the mouse and grab my finger." She's run out of room for her snakes and lizards. "I can take them and put them around my neck they'll lay their head on my neck and we watch snake shows together." Her appreciation for the limbless scaly reptile is rare.
"The biggest creator of fear, and don't take this wrongly, is simple ignorance," said Ben Kirkland, Natural Resource Manager, Chehaw Park.
"They are extremely important to ecology, if it wasn't for snakes we would have a lot more problems with rodents, they can carry diseases." said Kirkland.
But grim stories raise fear adding to the serpent's sinister reputation.
"90 percent of the venomous snake bites in America happen when you're trying to catch the animal or kill the animal," said Kirkland
"Snakes like this, it's not really painful, it feels like the thorns off of a rosebush maybe." Ben Blanton has been bitten before, like the lizard lady he handles his snakes most every day and puts them on exhibition.
"I get a lot of interesting reactions, everything from people wanting to come up and check it out because they're curious about it to people take off running." said Blanton.
He uses his pets to show these guys aren't that bad.
"My youngest niece is ten years old and she wants to be a herpetologists, that's mainly being around me and my snake."
Some people face their fears others never feared them to begin with. "I grew up in New Hampshire and there are not a lot of snakes up there." Said Kelly Putnam.
Putnam is now a herpetologist at the Flint RiverQuarium taking care of the animals and teaching others. "A lot of people think they're slimy they're dirty, they're not slimy at all and just want to be left alone when they're in the wild." And as wild animals they do what they can to protect themselves.
"Keep in mind this is a wild animal if you reach down and try to pick it up he's probably try to bite you, it's his only means of defense.
Lizard Lady doesn't handle venomous snakes, but loves them all. "You don't think they can love you and people will think I'm a nuts to say so but they can," she said. "I think I'll keep this up as long as I'm alive and I can take care of them."
Some may go their whole life without wanting to understand these animals, but they've been here long before us, and even without arms or legs and constant threats, they have managed to stay alive.