So I’ve officially been invited on a snake hunt. Yeah, I took a polite pass. While the slithery serpents are beyond fascinating, getting up and close and personal in the wild is not my idea of a good time. Venom Hunters‘ Brian Barczyk is one serious snake lover. The reptile expert and advocate has over 30,000 snakes of his own and stars in Discovery’s new series Venom Hunters (airing Wednesdays at 10pmET). As the owner of BHB Reptiles and producer of SnakeBytesTV, he shares his passion and knowledge of the species as one of four snake hunting outfits profiled in Discovery’s Venom Hunters.
Barczyk’s earliest memories aren’t of his parents; instead it’s a snake. He believes his love affair with snakes started at age 2. “My first memory as a kid was literally of a ball python at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, Mich. I’m 46 now, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. I mean I remember the cage, I remember the animal, I remember the feeling I had when I saw the snake. I was just born with it. It just is in me.”
That feeling never left, and as he got older he continued to feed his fascination. While his friends wanted to spend their summer riding bikes around town, Barczyk wanted to collect garden snakes. He kept his summer collection in his garage (his wise mom wouldn’t let them come in the house) and then would release the reptiles in the fall.
“It wasn’t until I was 15 years old that I had my first pet snake [a Burmese python he named King] in the house,” he shares. “I often say now — [owning] tens of thousands of snakes — I blame my mom. I said, ‘If you would have just let me get it out of my system when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have all these snakes.’ The truth is she couldn’t be more proud of what we have done with the snakes, and I couldn’t have imagined life without them.”
A side note on that snake: Barczyk says he wouldn’t recommend that one as a starter snake. “They get about 18 to 20 feet long and probably not the best starter snake, right? So I always tell people to do a little more research on your snake before you buy it — so practice what I preach, not what I’ve done.”
He jokes, but he’s done a lot right when it comes to his passion for snakes. He started working at a pet shop when he was 15, where he was introduced to a man who bred snakes. He was fascinated that this man could make money breeding snakes in his basement.
“I saw that he was making a few bucks and I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to try to breed some snakes; it would be awesome. I love it, what cooler thing to do, and maybe I will make a few bucks to pay my way through college.’ So I graduated, went to school — I was going for microbiology because I’m a biology nut — and by the time I was in my second year I was making more money in my mom’s basement than I could ever make. As a matter of fact, that year I bought my first house when I was 20 years old. I was making more money than I could ever make in the biology world. I thought, ‘Hey, you know what? I love snakes I love animals, why not give this a go.’ And here we are 27 years later and I’m still doing it.”