Recently, I had the pleasure of shooting with both Chuckey and Brianna. Chuckey is a reptile handler, animal lover, educator, and advocate (@madbioreptiles on Instagram). Brianna is talented model and makeup artist (@briannamruiz and @briannaruizmakeup on Instagram), and they both work out of Orlando Florida. While on our photo shoot, I had an opportunity to talk with them about their experiences together with the incredible animals they both call friends:
What kind of snakes are these?
Chuckey: Two Ball Pythons, a pied ball python and a bananna ball python
What makes you love your animals so much?
Chuckey: I like that they are something different than humans. I feel like I can trust an animal more than a human and when it comes to reptiles they are easier to keep than any other animal. But I like all animals equally.
So how do you share your passion?
Chuckey: I go to schools and I teach the kids about reptiles and not to fear animals. I also used to go to downtown Orlando with George and some of my other snakes and I would charge people to take photos with them and I would use that as an opportunity to teach them right on the spot about the animals.
So what can you teach us about these two snakes?
Chuckey: They are actually the same species, but two different colors. George is a bananna ball python, and the other one is a pied. As a species there are 3-4,000 different color variations. They aren’t dangerous at all because they are not big enough to choke you and they aren’t venomous or anything like that.
How did you train them to be so friendly?
Chuckey: They are naturally friendly. Even if you found one in the wild you could pick it up and he would be pretty chill about it. You just have to show respect for the animal. If you respect the snake, then the snake will respect you.
What do you tell someone who is afraid of snakes?
Chuckey: I first ask them why they are afraid of the snake. I want to know where that fear is coming from. Sometimes they just don’t know about the snake and that causes fear. People fear what they don’t understand. From there I have a conversation with them and get them to touch the snake to see he is not so scary. Some people have had bad experiences in the past and then we have a different conversation which usually ends up with them touching the snake as well. Some people just hear stories and they fear the snakes because of the stories they hear. I teach them what I know and it reduces their fear and we usually end up holding the snake by the end of it.
If someone encounters a snake in nature, what should they do?
Chuckey: They should just let the snake be. Snakes don’t go after people on their own. They should not try to kill it because then it is going to defend itself. And if it is a venomous snake it will probably try to bite you and then you could possibly die. You should just always leave snakes alone in the wild - they are just trying to live their life and don’t really want to come after you.
*Chuckey looks at Brianna*
She used to be TERRIFIED!
Brianna: Oh my goodness hahaha. I just never have been a fan of snakes… I guess I am one of those that had the experience that he talks about. My grandma is deathly afraid of snakes. So, when I met Chuckey, we were actually doing a photo shoot with a scorpion and we put it on my face.
WOW! Tell us how you did that!
Brianna: He had posted in his story with the scorpion and I just thought, yeah I’ll do it. I didn’t really take it seriously until it was time and I had to tell myself “wow I really gotta do this now” and he put it in my hand before we started shooting. The scorpion actually pinched my finger really bad and then I was like… Alright let’s put it on my face now!
WHAT?!?! So it pinched your finger and it hurt and then your immediate reaction was to put it on your face?!
Brianna: Yeah it left a little mark and I was like “Alright I can handle this… let’s go!” What I was most scared of was the stinger and the scorpion didn’t use it. The pinch wasn’t so bad.
So is the stinger dangerous?
Chuckey: No it is just like the sting of a bee. If you are allergic to it then it is dangerous, but otherwise it is not a big deal. This species knows that it is not venomous, so it would rather pinch you instead and try to open your skin.
So just tear you apart? Nice… That’s a great image haha. But I am sure he can’t do it right? Because he is too small to break your skin?
Chuckey: If he had enough time he could eventually start ripping you apart but it would take forever.
Brianna: Actually right before he put it on my face, it pinched him so bad he bled. And then he put it on my face right after!
Chuckey: I didn’t tell her that happened until after the photo shoot!
Brianna: He pinched my eyelashes, but my eyes were closed the whole time. I just laid perfectly still and I did not play with it at all. He told me all the risks of what could happen ahead of time so I decided not to move AT ALL.
So how did you get over your fear of the snakes?
Brianna: Well, it was kind of against my will haha. He told me by the end of the photo shoot I had to hold the snake! After I was done with the scorpion he was like “by the end of today you are going to touch this snake” and I said no I am not. Then he said “You just put a scorpion on your face, but you are scared of this snake that was held by a 2-year-old that same day?!” While we were shooting a little two-year-old boy put it around his neck. Then he basically just put the snake around my neck and I guess that is how I got over it hahaha.
Wow! So… when someone is hiking, or out in nature - how does that person make sure they are not going to find themselves in a dangerous situation with a snake?
Chuckey: When you are walking around outside you have to keep your ears open and listen, because the snakes are on the ground where you might not be looking. The snakes will make noise when you get close to them - a rattle snake will rattle at you and any other snake without a rattle will hiss at you before you even get too close to it. As long as you are paying attention you should be fine.
What is the difference between venomous and poisonous?
Chuckey: Hahahaha I get this question a lot. Venomous is injected into the blood and poisonous is something that you eat. So there is no such thing as a “poisonous snake” actually. Snakes can be venomous though. You can actually drink some snake venom - it’s like a kind of liquor because it is only dangerous when it gets into your bloodstream.
Have you ever had a snake venom shot?
Chuckey: Nope! I haven’t tried it yet haha.
To see some great behind the scenes moments from this experience, please check Jeff’s Instagram story highlights from this photo shoot @jeffwelt
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