Venomous snakes kill and injure thousands of people around the world every year. Demand for venom is at an all-time high, since it is used in a myriad of ways, from cutting edge medical research to the making of life saving anti-venom. There is currently an extreme shortage, and the Venom Hunters teams seek to fill that demand.
Venom Hunters posted to their Facebook page that, “Every year, venomous snakes kill over 100,000 people and hospitalize thousands more. See what the #VenomHunters are doing to help!”
Venom Hunters is a new series that follows four groups of expert snake hunters who are willing to risk their lives to track, catch and harvest venom from deadly snakes around the world so that lives can be saved. Besides treating snake bites, some day the venom may even be instrumental in treating several diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
The Venom Hunters teams take what precautions they can, including wearing snake boots and using special bags to contain the reptiles, but sometimes it isn’t enough. This venom is so toxic that when just getting a small amount of the deadly liquid on exposed skin can be dangerous, especially if someone has an open wound.
According to Discovery’s Venom Hunters page, with over 600 species of snakes worldwide, the four Venom Hunters teams will scour various locations ranging from the Florida swampland and the plains of Oklahoma to the Australian outback and Arizona desert. Venom Hunters follows these men and women as they fearlessly put their lives on the line to track and catch particular snakes as they’re needed, and then they go on to harvest the venom. Each Venom Hunters team has refined their own techniques and methods used to capture the reptiles, but the end goal is the same, which is to be able to harvest venom at the end of the day.
Tim Fitzer hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and says on the first Venom Hunters episode that he is known as “The Wild Man,” most likely due to the fact that he’s been bitten five times. Hunting snakes has always been a hobby to Fitzer, but now he’s putting his taxidermy business on hold to pursue and capture snakes as a full-time business. He plans to extract venom from the Western diamondback rattlesnake. This snake kills more people than any other in North America. Hunting is in this Native American’s blood, and he says he’ll hunt them until the day he dies.
Fitzer hired best friend and hunting partner Kevin Baker to help him find the snakes. Baker is an excellent spotter, and the two men have hunted snakes together for over 38 years. Another Venom Hunters partner Fitzer brings aboard is Hannah Lockhart, and he describes her as a fearless and excellent snake handler.
Ed Chapman is from Miami, Florida, and this Venom Hunters expert is the person top labs and medical researchers around the globe seek out. The workload has increased so much that he has brought on Justin Bottrell as his apprentice. At 76, Ed is hoping Justin is someone he can eventually hand his contacts and clientele over to when he is ready to retire. Together, this Venom Hunters team has traveled all over the U.S. in order to fill orders.
In the first Venom Hunters episode, titled “Liquid Gold,” Chapman and Bottrell end up in a Florida swamp searching for water moccasins, which are also known as cottonmouths due to the inside of their mouths resembling cotton when they open wide. These snakes are needed so that the lab Chapman is working with can produce up to 200,000 doses of anti-venom, which could save 5,000 lives. This Venom Hunters professional states that he doesn’t like hunting them because they’re so feisty and aggressive, but fortunately, he only needs to find three.
The Venom Hunters team of Brian Barczyk and his partner, Chewy, live in Shelby Township, Michigan. Barczyk has over 25 years of experience breeding and working with over 30,000 snakes. He also has one of the largest and most impressive reptile collections in the world. Chewy is an expert at handling non-venomous snakes. He has a lot to learn about how to handle the poisonous reptiles and fortunately for him, Barcyzk is definitely the right person to train him. During the first Venom Hunters episode, his inexperience puts both men in a dangerous situation. According to Hollywood Soapbox, this Venom Hunters duo travels to an inhospitable part of Australia to track down the deadly king brown or mulga snake, which is a type of cobra.
“I’ve been a snake guy for all my life really, and I actually do a YouTube show that’s basically about my love and passion for reptiles and, in particular, snakes,” Barczyk said in a recent phone interview with Hollywood Soapbox.
“This was something I was really excited about for a number of reasons. Number one, I love snakes. Number two, I think it’s a fantastic thing to just kind of shine the light on how important venom is, not only for anti-venom but also for medical research. So when I was asked, I couldn’t jump at it quick enough.”
Venom Hunters Dan Massey and his wife, Melanie, are from Sahuarita, Arizona, and both have a love of science, research, and animal conservation. Dan is a bilateral below-the-knee amputee, but he does not allow it to slow him down. His prosthetic legs give him an advantage because he can walk through tall grass or shrubs without worrying about being bit.
He has been handling all types of venomous snakes since his teen years. Due to her love for animals, at one time Melanie had a brief career as a veterinary technician, and also worked at an exotic pet and bird clinic. Now she assists Dan with collecting venom samples from both snakes and scorpions. This Venom Hunters team works for free, and they fund the research and shipment of venom themselves to facilities as far away as Spain.
Venom Hunters is produced for Discovery Channel by Authentic Entertainment, and Deb Ridpath is the executive producer. For the Discovery Channel, Kyle Wheeler is executive producer, with Greg Wolf serving as associate producer.
Will you be watching this new series? Leave your comments, thoughts and opinions below. The series premiere of Venom Hunters debuts on Wednesday, February 17, at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery.
[Image via Venom Hunters/Facebook]