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Snakes In A House

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A homeowner in West Central Texas went to look under his house, and he realized he had a problem - snakes. So he called Nathan Hawkins, owner of Big Country Snake Removal in Abilene, Texas. He told Hawkins that there were a few snakes.

NATHAN HAWKINS: We got there. I crawled underneath the house. And there was a lot more than a quote, unquote, "few."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There were 45 rattlesnakes. Hawkins pulled them out of corners and crevices with a pair of long snake tongs. After, he posted a video of the work he'd done to Facebook. And, of course, it went viral, over a million and a half views. But he says for him, it was just a pretty normal day.

HAWKINS: A lot of people don't realize that this happens here quite a bit. I would say that's definitely an above average. But, I mean, we've gotten some that were a lot - you know, a lot bigger dens than that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The largest den, 88 snakes under one house. Once he wrangles them, he takes the snakes out to a ranch where he likes to study them - their patterns and social behavior. And it's not just for work.

HAWKINS: I've been obsessed with snakes since I was a little kid. And I've kept snakes, you know, all throughout my teenage years, through my 20s. And I would get on social media. There would be people killing snakes all the time. And I thought, shoot, maybe I can help these people and save some snakes at the same time. So I just kind of started up the business as a side project. And it kind of exploded on me. And I've been doing it full time for three years now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says he's been bitten thousands of times but only seven times by venomous snakes. And that doesn't get any easier.

HAWKINS: No, no, no, not at all. A lot of people think that just because I've been bitten so many times that I've built up some sort of superhero immunity. But no, that's not the case. Actually, they've progressively gotten worse. And I don't know if that's just coincidental or - I mean, there's a lot of variables that go into that. But for the most part, it's gotten worse every time I've been bit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But he's never even thought about giving up the job or snakes. He's just too obsessed.

HAWKINS: I go all over the U.S. looking for them, not as - not as work. My vacations are snakes. My work is snakes. It's just kind of a passion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He does have a message for people who get squeamish around snakes.

HAWKINS: Snakes aren't the monsters that they're made out to be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At the very least, he says, stay away. And there are steps you can take to prevent rattlesnakes from making your home theirs too. Remove debris and wood piles, and seal the area underneath your house. But if you do find a few, maybe just call a professional. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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