JB’s Rattles educates people about snakes ‘and all that stuff’

Published 11:20 am Friday, July 22, 2016

Be ye wise as serpents themselves when it comes to dealing with snakes, other reptiles and even the spiders that slither and creep on land and in water.

The children and adults who attended JB’s Rattles Traveling Reptile Show on Tuesday learned that precautions and common sense can go a long way to avoid harming — or being harmed by — the aforementioned creatures. John Barnes, along with his granddaughter, Karly Barnes, were at the Windsor High School cafeteria with a variety of reptiles to see and even touch.

Since he was 5 years old, JB has had a fascination with them. “I love snakes, spiders and all that stuff,” he told his curious audience. Before removing the cloths draped over the containers, JB emphasized a few rules, such not to squeeze or touch the reptiles’ faces.

“Don’t mess with wild snakes,” he said. “It’s really serious. If you mess with snakes, you’re going to get bit.”

Walk away — don’t run away — whenever encountering snakes is another rule. As a way of remembering, JB taught them the chant, “One. Two. Walk Away.”

Although JB has always handled snakes and the like with as much care as possible, over the years he’s still experienced bites from venomous snakes. These wounds have required expensive vials of anti-venom to counteract the severe effects to the body.

“A Canebrake Rattlesnake is nothing to play with,” said JB. Wearing thick gloves, he briefly lifted one out of a glass container so that everyone could hear its rattle. A bite from this snake could be fatal.

He mentioned that the number of rattles doesn’t tell their age.

Taking care where they walk or place their hands can also help children or adults to avoid an encounter with any snake or spider. And contrary to popular misconception, snakes don’t chase people, he said.

• Don’t hold snakes by their tails because they can curl around and bite.

• Don’t even pick up a dead snake because it could still bite and inject venom.

• Don’t copy what you see on TV.

If you’re bit, call 911 and immediately remove any jewelry such as rings, bracelets or watches. A bite could cause the infected area to swell and the jewelry can become a tourniquet, which cuts off blood supply. Speaking of which, never use a tourniquet. Don’t cut or suck out venom. Note the time of the incident. Immobilize the bite area and keep the patient calm. Don’t use ice, pain medication or drinking alcohol.

With the aid of Charlie Fike, a young volunteer from the audience, JB showed how an Ace bandage should be quickly and securely wrapped around the wound.

One way to distinguish a venomous snake from a non-venomous one is to observe its coloring.

“Red touching yellow kills a fellow. Red touching black’s a friend of Jack,” he asked everyone to recite.

The Coral Snake is an example of the former, and is one of the most venomous snakes in the United States.

Not incidentally, JB pointed out the difference between what’s poisonous and what’s venomous: The former involves touching or ingesting a toxic substance; the latter by injecting, such as with fangs.

Snakes, like so many other creatures, are quite useful, he said, because they are the best exterminators of rodents, such as rats and mice.

Later, JB and Karly fed a dead mouse to a Corn Snake. Digestion will take four to five days to complete. Snakes have two mouths; one used to breathe and the other to swallow.

Switching to arachnids for a few minutes, he said that spider bits are on the increase, and added, “The Brown Recluse Spider is the one we’re having problems with.”

“Time is tissue” was another mnemonic for people to remember. If they are bit, the wound area will become hot to the touch because a fever is developing as a way to fight the infection. Get medical help as soon as possible.

You can kill, but don’t crush the spider if it’s captured so that doctors can identify the type. This also serves as a way of tracking.

JB then brought out a tarantula that was not harmful to the touch. In fact, he said they can make for cool pets for kids, but not under age 12. A few people such as Rylin Szymanski and Tina Maresh of Windsor even allowed the spider to crawl on their shoulders or faces. Brrrrr.

He urged parents to encourage their children’s interest in snakes, lizards and spiders because this could inspire them to later explore the science and application of such creatures in our lives. In addition to snakes serving as exterminators of vermin, their venom has potential medical uses as well, such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia and HIV, said JB.

After bringing out Myrtle the Turtle for all to see and touch its hard shell, a baby alligator named Junior was presented. It’s cute now, relatively speaking, but will grow 8 to 10 feet in length.

As with snakes, “Do not mess with alligators,” he said. “They’re too dangerous,, and when they bite, they don’t let go. It’s wrong to mess with wildlife.”

Nor should you ever feed or keep alligators as pets, added JB.

For the grand finale, he and Karly brought out a Burmese Python they call Big Guy. To hold him from one end to another took several people. Chris Zephir of Windsor reluctantly allowed the snake to be put on his shoulder, as did this writer. It still took Karly, JB and library volunteer Greysen Baker to help keep the snake above the floor.

JB said that he’s qualified to teach EMT snake bite training and can snake removal almost any time.

To learn more about this or Barnes bringing his traveling reptile show to your club, school or birthday party, call 757-739-4917; email info@jbsrattles.com; or see www.jbsrattles.com.