‘JB’s Rattles’ slithers back to Windsor

Published 10:02 am Friday, July 14, 2017

John Barnes of Moyock, North Carolina, a.k.a. “JB,” has been catching snakes and spiders since he was five years old. Now, it’s his full-time job.

The largely self-taught expert on all things crawly paid a visit to Windsor High School on Tuesday, where he showed a group of children enrolled in the Windsor Library’s summer reading program his  collection of snakes and other reptiles. Barnes has brought his reptile show to Windsor and the other branches of Blackwater Library since he founded his traveling company, “JB’s Rattles LLC,” about 14 years ago.

“My main goal is to pass the torch,” Barnes said. “Maybe one of these kids will end up doing what I do. Kids are really into wildlife. We have Steve Irwin to thank for that.

“I love snakes and I love children.”

The library’s goal in hosting Barnes, on the other hand, is simply to get children to read.

“A lot of kids can’t read past fourth grade,” Barnes said. “The goal is to get kids to check out a book. You can’t get into this [field] without reading books.”

John “JB” Barnes holds an African spurred tortoise for all to see during his presentation on Tuesday. — Stephen Faleski | Tidewater News

He added that the program he presents is suitable for all age groups, from infants to adults.

This time around, Barnes’ exhibit included a Honduran milk snake, a caramel-striped corn snake, a Canebrake rattlesnake, a black and white tegu lizard, a Rosehair tarantula, an African spurred tortoise, a juvenile American alligator and a green Burmese python named Kiwi. Barnes said that he had to obtain government permits to legally keep several of the animals he presented.

Prior to showing his collection of animals, Barnes spoke to the audience about facts and myths concerning snakes and about first aid for snake bites.

In the event that someone is bitten by a snake, Barnes said the first thing anyone should do is to call 911. Additional first aid tips he gave included: remove all jewelry, never use a tourniquet, do not try to cut or suck out the venom, note the time of the bite, immobilize the bite area, do not use ice, do not use pain killers and do not drink alcohol.

“It takes years of experience to work with these animals,” Barnes said. “I’m a pro, and I still get bit.”

He also warned that treatment for snake bites can be super-expensive.

“A bottle of CroFab [the anti-venom drug used to treat snake bites] costs about $40,000,” he said. “I had a friend of mine who got bit — $650,000 hospital bill.”

In addition to teaching children and adults about snakes, Barnes also works with local 911 dispatchers to respond to calls for snake removal, and operates a rescue to try to find homes for pet reptiles that people can no longer keep. Prior to embarking on this career path, he worked as a contractor for the private military company Blackwater USA.

“The people I thank the most are my family; they let me be the animal guy,” he said. “It’s in your blood; you either like them or you don’t.”