October 15, 2007 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to be a snake handler, but live in Chicago and have no professional snake experience. Where could I get some snake related experience?

So I don't know if snake handler would be the best description for what I want to do. I think that working with snakes, frogs, turtles, toads, etc. would be wonderful, whether it's breeding, catching, tracking or caring for them.

I don't have any professional animal experience or degrees, so I'd be looking for something entry level. But what is entry level for something like this?

I don't know of any snake farms or large breeders in Chicago - that seems more like a southwestern thing to me. Googling snakes or reptiles didn't bring up much and the local herpetological website hasn't been touched in years. Any ideas?
posted by youngergirl44 to Science & Nature (9 answers total)
How about talking about reptiles to zoo visitors? I've seen people do this (with live snakes) at Lincoln Park Zoo. I assume they're volunteers.

I' saw a bit of a "live reptile show" at Great America this summer. I assume the very enthusiastic young man doing the show every 30 minutes was getting paid.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2007

You could also volunteer or try to get a field job with herps. Look for listings for field jobs at ConBio or ESA.

This class is pretty good.

Also look here for summer gigs: SREL

This herp society looks like it is active.
posted by sulaine at 9:30 AM on October 15, 2007

I have a friend who used to work at the aforementioned SREL (as a herpetologist, no less) and immediately thought of him when I saw the question. Unfortunately, Federal budget cuts have nearly closed the facility and the University of GA is unwilling or unable to step in with more funds.

Another option to get your foot in the door is to volunteer with any nature preserve with an educational mission and help out with animal care, presentations, or whatever they need. Here in Augusta, GA we have the Phinizy Swamp that does this sort of thing, I am sure there are similar organizations near Chicago.
posted by TedW at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2007

You just missed the NARBC show in Tinley Park. There you could have talked to basically all the herpers in the industry. There are definitely lots of breeders in this area, though I can't name any because I've been out of the herp world for a while. Reptile Fest is coming in April, though. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2007

Entry level? Find a part-time job at a reputable pet store that deals in herps. I did this throughout high school and logged plenty of up-close-and-personal time with the stock. Granted, most of that time was either feeding them or cleaning tanks, but hey. How else was I going to get near the 12' Burmese?

BTW, snake poo smells most foul.
posted by jquinby at 10:49 AM on October 15, 2007

I got interrupted before I could finish my post, but it looks like this place has a number of unpaid volunteer and intern opportunities; these will probably be needed to get some experience unless you are planning to get a biology degree.
posted by TedW at 10:50 AM on October 15, 2007

And here is another job resource.
posted by TedW at 11:14 AM on October 15, 2007

I should also say that 99.9% of the herp people I know got into herps by simply getting herps. Get yourself an easy snake like a corn or a ball python. Set up a red eared slider tank. Subscribe to Reptiles magazine. Check out the reptile web sites. Herp people are incredibly accessible, and you'd learn lots fast. You'll be in the thick of things before you know it. You could help out breeders, work at a pet store, work at shows, etc.

(Um, I have a corn snake that I'm willing to give away, free to good home, if you're interested. She's healthy and all. I'd edumucate you on her care.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:46 PM on October 15, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the offer, iguanapolitico. But if I brought home any more animals, I think the BF would have to kick me out to make room! That's one reason I'd like to work with the critters instead of just having one. And jquinby, I'm aware of the smell and am ok with it - I always had lizards or snakes while growing up.

Thank you everyone for the links and suggestions. I'll mark best answers as I go through all your ideas.
posted by youngergirl44 at 4:59 PM on October 15, 2007

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